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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 22 June 2013
Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have a venerable copy of the audio cassettes of this excellent murder mystery but with the absence of cassette players in more modern cars I have little chance to listen to them anymore. I've slowly been replacing the cassettes and it is nice to find that Audiogo have been working through the back catalogue and have now reached this one. My cassette copy indicates that these were issued in that format in 1992. Listening to the CD version is a joy with all the hiss and other noise associated with cassettes being eliminated.

Michael Jayston has been the reader for many of the unabridged readings of the PD James books and I think he does a fine job. My vision of Dalgleish is of a careful and precise man and Jayston's readings conjure that up for me. He reads with a clear diction and does justice to the elegant prose of PD James.

The story itself was written in 1967 and so reflects the era and is a model of the mystery genre. James' plots are always well constructed and this one is no exception. Beautifully observed tensions in English village life.

I have no reservations about recommending this as a fine mystery which is read with great skill.
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Published in 1967, this is the third Adam Dalgliesh mystery; following on from “Cover Her Face” and “A Mind to Murder.” Dalgliesh is still involved with Deborah Riscoe, who appeared in the first novel, and is considering whether or not to propose to her. Does he love her enough to change his life and perhaps put his work second? While considering this change, he goes to stay with his aunt, Jane Dalgliesh. An avid bird watcher, she lives in a small community near Monksmere bird reserve, which seems to be populated (apart from her) mostly by writers – either authors or critics. These include Maurice Seton, a detective novelist, Sylvia Kedge, his crippled secretary, his half brother Digby Seton, critic Oliver Latham, Justin Bryce, R.B. Sinclair, the reclusive ‘great novelist’ and romance writer Celia Calthrop and her niece, Elizabeth.

The book unfolds with the discovery of Maurice Seton; found floating in a small dingy, minus his hands. This macabre death throws the small group of writers into recriminations, suspicion and fear. Although the wonderfully named D I Inspector Reckless is in charge, Dalgliesh finds himself dragged into the investigation. This will take him from the idyllic countryside of Monksmere to Soho nightclubs, as he attempts to discover who was responsible for Seton’s disappearance and bizarre death.

Although this novel is set amongst a group of authors, which should appeal to me, I found this less enjoyable – or perhaps less believable – than the previous book. Of course, being P D James I still loved the plot and characters, but it just seemed a little too staged. I am, though, enjoying re-reading the series very much and enjoyed learning a little more about the taciturn Dalgliesh.
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First published in 1967, Unnatural Causes was the third in PD James' Adam Dalgleish series. Following a particularly draining case, and with a difficult decision to make, Dalgleish is looking forward to a nice quiet holiday on the remote Suffolk coast with his Aunt. But no sooner has he arrived than a seemingly grotesque murder occurs. Not officially involved in the investigation, Dalgleish nonetheless becomes enmeshed in it and his holiday plans are soon in ruins.

All the PD James trademarks that make her books such a delight are here. The plethora of suspects (at one time or another I suspected almost every character including the investigating policemen as she leads the reader up a variety of garden paths), her beautiful use of language that really sets the scene and the character (and as usual I needed a dictionary close at hand, James' vocabulary is immense) and her interest in character as much as plot. But this book has something extra that makes it a real delight for me. I am a huge fan of the big four crime writers of the last century (Christie, Marsh, Allingham and Sayers) and this book appears to be part homage to and part sly laughing at James' great predecessors. Filled with characters and situations that might have come from one of those ladies books, but made realistic and three dimensional, James tips a few knowing winks while showing us the reality of a murder investigation. As well as this I found it to be an intriguing and well written mystery that held me quite gripped until the last. 5 stars.
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on 27 June 2013
Now, I quite like PD James output as a rule, but this has me shaking my head. On 6 CDs and read very well as always by Michael Jayston, the story is set in a small community on the remote Suffolk coast.
This was written or at least published in 1967. Having been born in the fifties, I'm old enough to remember the sixties, and the atmosphere and writing of this story seems more of the twenties or thirties with references to maids and cooks, and expensive doctors that command a god-like reverence.

Whilst I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers et al this tale reads like Ngiao Marsh on a not- so- good day.

I cannot believe that any group of writers described as in this story would behave like spoilt, ill-mannered children in real life. The murder was unfathomable, unlike the murderer, whom I had a suspicion about after listening to cd one and was certain about after cd two.

Perhaps Ms James was writing this as a fulfilment of a contract, or to meet some kind of deadline; but to my mind the quality was way, way below her usual output. Disappointing.
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Unnatural Causes is early Adam Dalgleish. He's still coping with his reluctance to become emotionally intimate and uses a holiday to visit his Aunt Jane as an opportunity to think things over. Will he ask Deborah Riscoe to marry him . . . or not?
Naturally, as soon as he arrives there's a mysterious disappearance followed by all kinds of bizarre events. When the mystery turns into apparent crime, Dalgleish becomes concerned for his aunt who doesn't have an alibi. A.D. is also on the outside looking in as the local CID led by Inspector Reckless seems to resent Dalgleish's presence.
The whole circumstance is made ore bizarre by the presence of many literary types in what increasingly seems to be a literary mystery written about in a mystery. There's a fascinating story within the story element that gets the book off to a strong start.
But as Dalgleish unravels the ultimate mystery, the book also comes unraveled. You get a lengthy explanation, but the end doesn't move swimmingly along like the beginning and middle do.
Perhaps Baroness James painted herself into a corner by producing such an imaginative mystery and couldn't bear to part with it when she couldn't think up a nice ending to match.
But I still recommend the book because of the strong beginning and middle. You can skip the end after the storm if you want. You'll probably like the book better if you do.
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on 16 June 2016
I was disappointed in this Book 3 of the Dalgleish series, having read the later and better ones first. The book held echoes of the previous books that I had read. The characters were well defined but the 'solution' came in pages of explanation at the end which was not as skilled as her later books. However, P.D. James is always a pleasure to read.
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on 5 August 2015
I am always at a loss to comment on early works of people who become great authors, but I did not really like this book. It was to me forced and unreal, almost Professor Plum, in the library with the lead pipe. Characters I had difficulty relating to and some scenes which appeared far fetched. I did persevere to its climatic end however - hence the two stars
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on 19 April 2015
Not the best of P.D. James' books - my favourites are Death of an Expert Witness and Innocent Blood (which is truly brilliant!) - but still a good read. The usual formula: murder suspects limited to a small group, either on an island or a boat or a train (c.f. Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express) or a religious community. In this book, it's people living in an isolated part of the Norfolk coast. Lots of atmosphere and finely drawn characters.
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Format: Audio CD|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In this episode, we find the good detective on holiday - staying in a picturesque place by the sea. He is all set for a well-earned break from work, but instead walks into a murder scene. The victim is an ageing has-been author who seems to have plenty of friends, but other feelings soon become apparent. The story thus unfolds like an Agatha Christy mystery, with a great deal of interwoven dialogue and events that require all the listener's concentration to piece together into clues.

The story trundles along nicely until the final quarter, which is given over largely to confession of one sort or other. As such, the ends are all tied together neatly, but the murder plot itself is so complicated it is almost ludicrous. Even so, it's a fun story, with plenty of thrills and twists; but if you are interested in trying a pd James story, I'd try the much better story: Shroud for a Nightingale by James, P. D. on 07/03/2013 unknown edition.
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on 16 January 2015
Brilliant. P D James has always given us the very best detective stories and it is sad that she is no longer with us. In Adam Dalgliesh she has created a fascinating and lovable character. Her descriptions of the lonely windswept Suffolk coast are so true to life (I come from that area). The mystery unfolds in a way which only such a master of detective fiction could present to us. A book which I could not put down until I reached the last page.
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