64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
P.D. James' Debut Novel,
This review is from: Cover Her Face (Paperback)
Sally Jupp is unexpectedly attractive--and an unwed mother in an era when such still carries considerable stigma. After a sterling record at a home for "fallen women," she finds work as a maid for the aristocratic but somewhat impoverished Maxie family, and once installed shows another aspect of her personality: a perverse pleasure in creating unpleasantness for virtually every one who crosses her path. The Maxie family is largely impervious to her machinations... but when Sally goes so far as to tantalize a proposal of marriage from the Maxie son, her game of troubling the water turns lethal, and Scotland Yard's Inspector Dalgliesh is on the job.
This 1962 effort was P.D. James' first novel, and at the time it drew enough praise to immediately place among the foremost mystery writers of the day. And indeed there is much to be said for it: the story is well-constructed, the characters well drawn, and the crime is appropriately mysterious; on the whole it is a fast and fun read. But not all P.D. James fans will be impressed. Although there is more than a hint of the distinctive style and convolutions James will bring to her later work, it borrows a great deal in construction from Agatha Christie and not a little from Dorothy Sayers in terms of literary style, and Inspector Dalgliesh is not as well developed here as he will eventually become.
On the whole, I recommend the novel--but I recommend it to established fans of P.D. James, who will be interested to see her working in the "classic English murder mystery" style and enjoy comparing this debut work to the author's later and more impressive work. First timers would do better to select one of the many novels that find James at the peak of her form--with DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS or A TASTE FOR DEATH particularly recommended.