The Private Patient (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Mystery) Hardcover – 28 Aug 2008
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Given the astonishing length of the writing career of PD James (her first novel was published in 1962), it is perhaps not surprising that her work often consciously refers back to an earlier era of British crime writing -- but it's none-the worse for that. In fact, James' clever and affectionate reinventions of the devices and conventions of that era afford a particular pleasure -- as is the case with her latest, The Private Patient.
Uncompromising investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn has booked herself into the Chandler Powell private clinic in Dorset. She has decided to remove a disfiguring facial scar, and is looking forward to what she hopes will be a new life after the surgery. But Rhoda will not leave the clinical alive she is killed. After her murder, Commander Adam Dalgliesh is summoned to investigate. As he begins to examine suspects, scene and motives, a second death occurs, and Dalgliesh finds himself faced with one of the most complex and challenging mysteries of his career.
In many ways, The Private Patient has the structure of a novel from the golden age of crime fiction, and James is well aware of the very best writing from that era (including Cyril Hare, who James succeeded as premier crime writer for her publisher, Faber). Needless to say, she freights in a very modern level of psychological investigation, more penetrating than that of her great predecessors. If the novel seems less initially engaging than other recent work by the author, there is perhaps a subtle agenda here: James is avoiding the more obvious reader-grabbing tactics to present a low-key investigation of character than she has chosen to deal with in recent books. If a little more patience is required than usual, the result of this understated approach pays dividends. And admirers of James (and her doughty detective Dalgliesh) will be prepared to be flexible for the pleasures of the cogently handled narrative here. --Barry Forshaw
"Although she tackles contemporary social issues with relish, James will still use old-fashioned narrative devices dating back to the golden age of crime fiction. That's because they still work." -"Calgary Herald " "Her skill and vitality are not diminished . . . The Private Patient" "is classic James." -"Scotsman ""This is a book about the way we live now . . . James brings a stinging clarity to the complicated goings-on in the Dorset countryside" -"The Sunday Times ""Elegantly phrased, plot-driven, multi-layered and laced with menace." -"Observer" "P. D. James -- in the eyes of many admirers the world's finest living crime novelist." -"The Windsor Star" "From the Hardcover edition."See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The plot is good old fashioned detective fiction: complicated, not entirely realistic, but not too far-fetched either.
My only reservation is, surprisingly, the writing - there is too much detail, too much spelling out of thoughts which in her earlier novels PD James expected her readers to infer.
Nonetheless, good entertainment. Perfect while you're cooking, ironing or just being lazy.
There's all of that on offer in this book. P.D.James is Britain's Great Grandma of Crime, and despite now being 88 has just turned out a new novel featuring the restrained and intellectual detective Adam Dalgleish. Dorset is the setting, amongst sinister standing stones that feature on the cover: it is midwinter and the trees are bare. Just the moment for a violent death in a private plastic surgery clinic. The murder victim is an investigative journalist, strangled after having a mysterious scar removed - whose secrets has she disturbed?
P.D. James likes to focus on institutions, like the forensics clinic of "Death of an Expert Witness" or Peverell Pres, the gothic publishing house that featured in "Original Sin". The upmarket cosmetic surgery clinic in this book is another such creation, with lots of secrets under the surface. There's lots about Miskin, who I really like, and more development of Dalgleish's relationship with Emma. I don't want to give away any plot details in a review, so please forgive me for being sketchy about the book's actual events, but let me just say the book wraps up very neatly. And ends on a good note...
This is a proper old-fashioned English detective story where the picture is slowly pieced together through a kind of fugal repetition of themes, including a returning image of time that unites the novel.Read more ›
The setting for The Private Patient is, naturally, a decaying outpost of provincial privilege with a spooky and claustrophobic atmosphere. Rhoda Gradwyn, a fearless investigative journalist with a fair tally of accumulated enemies, books in to the private Dorset clinic of her plastic surgeon, George Chandler-Powell. The purpose of the visit: the removal of a deep scar across Gradwyn's cheek, inflicted during childhood. The operation is completed successfully. But the following night, bandages still wrapped round her face, Rhoda is strangled in her bed.
Helpfully enough, the clinic, a beautiful yet intimidating Tudor manor house, is an enclosed space chock full of suspects. Two of the staff have longstanding grudges against Gradwyn, another has a dark past that has caused her to assume a new identity, one of Rhoda's friends stands to gain from her will, and Chandler-Powell's two medical assistants both have reasons for wanting to ruin the surgeon's reputation. So whodunnit? And what is the significance of the ancient stone circle outside the manor, where a witch was once burned, and where strange lights were seen on the night of the murder?
The Private Patient is a novel resolute in its conformity to the conventions and clichés of its genre, but it's a class act nonetheless -- the work of a novelist rightly confident of the continuing power and relevance of the old Agatha Christie format.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Pressure of work, travel and a hint of laziness means I am now reduced to just giving a star rating. otherwise I never find time to review.Published 15 days ago by meryon
I loved watching PD James's Adam Dagleish serial crime tv series but there's nothing like the books before & after seeing it on the tv. Read morePublished 21 days ago by C. Lamb
A fitting end to her Dalgish series, but needs to be read as the last in the series, and not as a stand alone.Published 1 month ago by mrs s e jones
A little lack-lustre but considering the age of the author, good enough. Dalgleish lost his edge rather; Emma character very superficially developed and comes over as a very... Read morePublished 3 months ago by PAMELA FLETCHER
My first and last book by an author obsessed with obscure words and irrelevant and detailed descriptions of meals. I shan't bother with her again. Really boring stuff.Published 5 months ago by D C Morris
This is a generally good murder mystery story. I wouldn't have said that it was particularly gripping but I did want to continue reading. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Debra F