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on 6 December 2002
An excellant and compelling read. The author seems to be able to write an incredibly complex novel - and keep the reader hanging on until the end. Working in a hospital myself, it is obvious that the story was very well researched and brings back the old memories of Schools of Nursing! As the plot thickens, I think that even the most seasoned of crime readers would not be able to solve this one alone!
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This is the fourth book in the Adam Dalgliesh series. I have recently been re-reading these novels and, although I have enjoyed the previous books, this certainly represents a seeming increase in ability and confidence in the writing and storyline. “Shroud for a Nightingale,” is set in a nurse training school and P D James worked for the NHS for many years, so it is an environment she would have been extremely familiar with.

The story begins with Miss Muriel Beale, an Inspector who is setting out for the day of the John Carpendar Hospital inspection. Her first impression, on arriving at the impressive Nightingale House, is that it is highly unsuitable for a nurse training school. However, the inspection begins with a demonstration by the student nurses and, during this, there is a death. When another student nurse is killed, Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the crimes.

This is an assured mystery, with a closed community and a great cast of characters; from the arrogant surgeon, Mr Stephen Courtney Briggs to super efficient matron, Mary Taylor and the Sisters and Nurses who live and work in Nightingale House. There is little privacy in Nightingale House and Dalgliesh soon gets to hear of the affairs, petty squabbles and secrets that abound in the hospital. As he delves into the past of the inhabitants of Nightingale House, he uncovers the truth, and James gives us an assured, intelligent mystery with a great range of suspects and motives.
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on 22 June 2015
This is the fourth Adam Dalgliesh book, published in 1971, and the first I read. It was the beginning of a love affair with PD James and following her recent death, I decided to re-read them all.
The Nightingale in question is not Florence but Nightingale House, a nursing school at John Carpendar Hospital, Heatheringfield. At a student demonstration of patient feeding by intra-gastric tube, the nurse who substitutes as the patient dies a ghastly death. It is assumed to be an accident. When a second student nurse is found dead in her bed, her whisky nightcap the assumed culprit, Adam Dalgliesh is called in from Scotland Yard.
Like all James detective books, this is a complex mixture of observation of human behaviour, intricate plotting, detailed description, and totally believable characters. This is how Alderman Kealey is introduced, he, “looked as perky as a terrier. He was a ginger-haired, foxy little man, bandy as a jockey and wearing a plaid suit, the awfulness of its pattern emphasized by the excellence of its cut. It gave him an anthropomorphic appearance, like an animal in a children’s comic; and Dalgliesh almost expected to find himself shaking a paw.”
The brooding Victorian pile which is Nightingale House, set amongst woods which are rumoured to be haunted, is an atmospheric setting for a murder story involving young emotional women. So when there are more attacks and a fire, it somehow seems inevitable given the setting.
Did I work out the identity of the murderer? I had an early suspicion which I then forgot as I became involved in the various possibilities which Dalgliesh explores. PD James’s books are not formula whodunits, this story incorporates medical procedure, World War Two, ballroom dancing, blackmail. The story twists and turns as we see events unfold through different points of view though whether the truth is being withheld we do not know until the end.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Originally published in 1971, this is the fourth Adam Dalgleish novel from the pen of P.D. James. Two trainee nurses are killed in quick succession at a country training hospital, one in front of all her class mates. Dalgleish of the Yard is called in to solve the murders. A simple set up, but James' writing and plotting makes this an absolute joy. The story is multilayered, with a plethora of well drawn characters who may or may not have done it. We follow Dalgleish and Sergeant Masterson as they peel back the layers of obfuscation to get to the root of the mystery. James throws in a few red herrings, and by the end of the bok I had been convinced at one time or another that every single main character had done it. There was a point I was even starting to suspect Dalgleish!

James writes in an erudite fashion and with an obvious love of language. There were a couple of times I had to get a dictionary as her vocabulary is far greater than mine! She draws characters and situations vividly, and in a few of the big set pieces I was hanging on the edge of my chair. Her characters, and the way she describes their thoughts and motivations, are beautifully put across. Dalgleish in particular is a great creation, and it is interesting to see him through both his own eyes and those of people around him. It's a well written mystery which I was sorry to come to the end of.

Michael Jayston's reading is simply masterly. I have to confess to having been a fan of his since I saw him playing the Valeyard in Dr Who more years ago than I care to admit to. His voice is deep and full of colour, with a richness that makes this reading so easy on the ears. He manages to distinguish each character with just a slight inflection of his voice, not having to resort to any outrageous vocal contortions or accent. He has a rhythm that neatly builds up the tension, and is in turns light and dark as the action dictates. When reading Masterson's dancing interrogation I was halfway between pity for the lady and laughing at the ridiculousness, there were also times when he really made me feel the tense and frightening atmosphere. It's not many narrators who can get me so emotionally involved in an audiobook. It's a voice I could listen to all day.

The set is on 8 CDs, held in a spindle case. The reading clocks in at over 8 hours. It's an excellent reading of an excellent book, 5 stars.
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on 25 June 2015
This novel set in a large provincial teaching hospital in the 1960's was brilliant. A very clever and accurate portrait of the strict, claustrophobic atmosphere of nursing sisters, nurse tutors in the training school and the student nurses in their care. As a retired nursing sister and midwife I recognised just how accurately the author was describing the well-ordered and well run hospitals in the first 20 years of the NHS.

The characters were well drawn and slowly developed, and the plot brilliantly devised. It kept one guessing until the end. I recommend this book, but not wise to take in to hospital as a diversion! P.D James used her work experience in the NHS to give us all a great, crime detection novel.
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on 24 April 2016
A very cleverly crafted book with a great many characters to flesh out the pages. I was quite surprised by the ending and felt rather sad too. Dalgleash is a tough stubborn character, though he seemed not to take centre stage as much in this story.
My main problem was impatience at P D James descriptions of scenes that were too detailed right down to the minutiae of detail. No doubt helpful for dramatisation but unnecessary for this reader.
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on 1 August 2008
The Adam Dagliesh novels could be divided into two periods- an earlier one and more recent one. The earlier novels are shorter, have a wonderful period quality and are, one the whole, darker and colder. The more recent ones are a lot more interested in Adam Daglieshs love life and show the detective in a far more humane and happy light. One could wonder if this change in the great detective reflects the quiet consolations of later life and family for the author- certainly the newer novels are all dedicated to her loved ones.

With that in mind- its very easy to put this novel into the darker and colder earlier period. The novel opens on a dark wet midwinter's morning when a nursing school inspector prepares to leave the dubious comforts of her little flat to visit a training school in the country. We are quickly introduced to an antiquated style of hospital with the matron, sisters and primadonna consultants that are (alas?)no more. Certainly, there is no mention of managers, targets or mrsa; and one gets the impression that the floors of the hospital are clean enough to eat your dinner off. The nurse training appears remarkably practical and devoid of the over emphasis on protocol and science that has ruined the NHS. The nurse training inspector watches the students insert a nasogastric tube into one of their colleagues as part of a demonstration. Unfortunately someone substituted the milk that was meant to be given to the volunteer with detergent. The young student dies in some considerable pain. The investigation that follows carefully dissects the apparent order of the hospital and instead portrays a sad cold lonely world with deeply damaged healers that live in an uncomfortable proximity together- the ultimate institution.

Dagliesh is at his most unsympathetic in this novel. Its is even difficult to imagine how he could ever be a poet- such is the coldness of his characterisation. He certainly shows little humanity and appears to be as difficult to his subordinates as to those under his investigation. Yet if he is cold his assistant is sociopathic. Despite this the novel flows with the author's usual ease. The ending is rather cold and brutal and there is little redemption.

Alongside the murder, this novel evokes a changing time in the medical system and the authors talents lie as much in the evocation of social history as in crimewriting. James seems to rather relish the future direction of the health service as the novel ends but for those of us who are stuck with the current one can only think of those seemingly less complicated days with some envy.
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2013
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )|Verified Purchase
P D James wrote 'Shroud for a Nightingale' in the l970s but in the hands of such a master of mystery and suspense this is a story which remains compelling and enthralling. When a young student nurse acting as a `model' during a demonstration dies horribly and painfully the local police are called in to deal with the death. However when shortly afterwards another student nurse is found dead , Adam Dalgliesh is brought in from Scotland Yard to investigate. Although I read the book many years ago I had forgotten who murdered the two young nurses and, despite the fact that James is scrupulously fair and doesn't mislead her reader at any stage, the denouement was a surprise. Michael Jayston is an excellent reader who keeps the listener's attention throughout. One of the joys of listening to the recording was that it reveals the beautifully descriptive elements of James's writing which you might miss if you are reading the book, hurrying through intent only on finding out `who did it'. Nightingale House is described so well you can `see' it in your mind's eye and the description of the storm which brought down trees on the night Fallon was murdered is so good you can `hear' rain lashing down and visualise the trees swaying and, in some cases, crashing to the ground. [Incidentally there is a little detail here you could easily miss whilst reading the book but which becomes more noticeable in Jayston's reading - a cupboard door carelessly left open which crashes shut in the wind]. I would recommend this production even if you have read the novel. I know I will be looking out for more recordings by Michael Jayston as his reading gave this, already first class story, a new dimension. fjs
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on 15 November 2014
I've read this book before many years ago. I like it because it is set in the sixties or early seventies and is more about the case than about the detectives love life which some of the newer books seem more to concentrate on. I would always recommend the older Dalglish books.
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on 13 March 2015
Crime fiction at its very best, not just a gripping story to keep one wondering (and without gratuitous and totally unnecessary violence) but also so well written in good, clear English. I cannot recommend it too hightly
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