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on 8 March 2009
This is brilliantly read. Michael Jayston is the perfect reader, suggesting different voices, accents, gender, without caricature.
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.
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VINE VOICEon 23 July 2009
Simply put - this an excellent audio CD of the PD James murder mystery "The Private Patient." The careful build up of the story and characters is expertly crafted by the author. Michael Jayston deserves special praise for his brilliant narration. Sit back, relax, and listen. You will not be disappointed. Recommended.
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If you love PD James you already know what to expect: the English countryside at its most mysterious and threatening; descriptions of London and its twistings and turnings; a strange, dysfunctional group of suspects bound together by professional ties, rivalries, jealousies and secrets; and most of all an intricately-constructed plot.

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. It has James's distinctive signature style: precise description of rooms and things seen, careful enumeration of conversations, and hanging over it all a sort of brooding sense of life's darkness.

Though she can never restrain herself from having the obligatory pop at the Labour government (a total of 4 by page 85, but she's a Tory peer so it's not that surprising), the book is a real treat. If you are looking for the flash bang wallop of Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell, look elsewhere. More for devotees of Wallander or Martin Beck, then, than Karin Slaughter.

I love PD James and I think this is a very good one. Quiet, restrained, marvellous.
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VINE VOICEon 10 May 2009
P.D. James is 88, and if the thought of churning out 400-page novels at that age impresses you, spare a thought for her detective, Adam Dalgliesh, who's been wrestling culprits to the floor since 1962. I can only assume he's been drinking the same elixir as James Bond, and gets younger and more muscular with each new case.

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. The story thrills and entices, like it should, but it's also familiar and pleasurable, a book to be dipped into at leisure rather than one to be read from a grim compulsion to get to the end. James is simply a terrific writer: elegant, erudite and measured.
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on 25 November 2008
I wish I could give 5 stars to this, probably the last PD James mystery featuring the stalwart yet sensitive Commander Adam Dalgleish. Most of the book was 5 star material, with the winning PD James formula of isolated setting, cast of improbably named suspects, a gruesome murder or two, and meandering setting description with words like "minatory", "gule" and "subvention" cropping up early and often to establish once again the author's literary bona fides. (Emma wears not a jacket, but a jerkin, as we are reminded three times in three pages.) The final 80 pages were however a disappointment, a rushed flurry of events, interviews with newly found characters appended in too-neat resolution. The ending seemed hardly connected to the build-up that preceded it. If a mystery lacks a satisfying conclusion, all the previous story-telling seems futile. Sorry to say, I have seen a loss of momentum in PD James's last several mysteries. She takes pains to keep up with the times, but her unnecessary subplot about lesbians is so painstakingly tolerant, so jarring, so entirely lacking in narrative reality. The effort to be open-minded is always just that - an effort, and the display of faux acceptance self-consciously calls attention to itself because it rings false and extraneous to the story. Poor Dalgleish, as I remember from earlier novels, was always more interesting as a solitary poet/police officer. Since he acquired a continuing romantic interest, the incongruously young Emma Lavenham, he has become too comfortably uxorious. His depth has dissipated. The detective sidekicks, Miskin and Benton, while again politically correct, are never as interesting as was Dalgleish at his philosophical best. Dare I add that the dialogue is simply not believable? Only in a PD James novel do characters speak in such perfectly shaped paragraphs.
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on 15 June 2010
I have to say when I ordered this online in audio format it was for a friend. The cover intrigued me so much - I'm into stone circles and standing stones - that I had to go out and get a copy in paperback for myself. I'd yearned for it for some time but finally purchased it.

WOW! That's all I can say. PD James you've done yourself proud with this one. The location descriptions made me feel like I was there. Lots of suspense built in to keep me wondering until the who-dunnit was solved.

I've not read a lot by this author but after having read this novel, I'll be reading her entire collection!
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on 30 August 2008
This novel is well up to James' usual high standard and fans of her work, like myself, will enjoy it very much. I think it ended a bit abruptly; I would have like for the actions and motive of the exposed murderer to be explored more, but not having some things spelled out also has its charms and it didn't detract much from the book.

One thing I am beginning to find annoying is the descriptions of the recurring characters and their relationships to eachother (Emma's frienship with Clara, Kate's with her grandmother, Benton's with his parents, etc.), which seem to be repeated almost verbatim in the last three or four books. I realise that each book must stand alone, but the author could at least phrase them differently!
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on 18 September 2008
The book starts brilliantly. All the ingredients are there. The beautiful language, the mystery, the interesting characters. But in the end of the book a lot falls apart. The solution of the murders are really unsatisfactory. I must admit that I just didn't get it. And the answer why the journalist wanted to get rid of her scar "because I no longer have need for it"(It's on the book sleeve so I don't give anything away)just isn't there. A pity. I have read all her books and she is a huge favorite of mine, but the ending drags down the overall pleasure of this book.
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on 4 June 2009
I have long been a fan of PD James, and looked forward with relish to this latest in the series of Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. I was disappointed. We learn in the first paragraph of the first page who is to die, but we have to wait until we're a third of the way in for the first murder. Before we even meet Dalgliesh and his team, we have to endure the inconsequential prattlings of the first victim, as we try to understand what makes her tick, although this effort for the reader is not rewarded by the writer - this early exposition has little bearing on what comes next. There are various interviews with suspects and informants, all undertaken by members of the police who have become mere caricatures. I struggle now to remember all their names, so little did they matter to me. Dalgliesh is at his most ponderous, and even the odd Emma Lavenham interludes do little to endear him to us, as he seems to have become even more full of his own importance. The denouement is signposted from early on, so I, for one, had no trouble in identifying the eventual murderer, and when the guilty party was revealed, the fact that there had to be a long written confession, identified for me just how poorly this book had been written. This book felt to me as if it had been written by someone paid by the word. It was turgid, with little in the way of suspense, and vast tracts seemingly included to pad out the story, and which did nothing to increase the pace. I was amused to see that PD James managed to use her favourite three words: iconoclastic, atavistic, and numinous, as she does in most of her novels. All in all, this is one to avoid.The Private Patient The Private Patient (Adam Dalgliesh Mystery)
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on 1 February 2010
P D James was one of the first authors I started reading when I moved on from children's books, and so I have long held her in great esteem and affection.

I did find the last couple of her books a little wearing - essentially the same device is used; someone killed then the unexpected witness killed, and I did wonder if we were just going for another circle on that merry-go-round...

Well, if we did, I don't know - afraid I bailed out before the woman even got bumped off. The number of books I have not finished out of thousands read can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and this is the latest. I couldn't get a handle on any of the characters; I didn't care about any of them; and after all these years Adam Dalgliesh is STILL contemplating his navel at every opportunity. His constant perusing on the state of his own happiness is now coming across as utterly self indulgent - just get on with life and enjoy the good bits, for god's sake.

However, all this could merely be a matter of taste. What isn't though, and is incredibly sad, is how ponderous the writing has become. EVERYTHING has at lease one adjective or adverb qualifying it, and the longer those words the better. A seething soup of superflous sesquipedalians. This is such a shame, as PD James can write beautifully, but there is an enormous difference between a slow-moving book in which suspense is gradually built up, and this snailish ponderosity (is that a word, or is the influence rubbing off on me?)

So, don't know whodunnit, wottheydun or whytheydunnit. Don't care either.
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