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Customer reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars

on 2 May 2017
Everything one could want from a PD James novel. I had to immediately start the next one.
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on 27 March 2017
Top Drawer story
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on 25 January 2017
Being a cosy crime reader - I only venture into post 1960s crime & detection novels now and then. This novel was one I spotted in H. R. F. Keating's Crime & Mystery the 100 Best Books (1987). I really liked the setting and idea of the storyline - in theory this should have been a five star novel - however the characters and their personalities & histories were so well padded out (unnecessarily so) that it made the novel seem never ending (374 pages). Many of the characters were depressive and seemed to have lost their way in life including Daggliesh which made for a somewhat dull read. Both of the above points meant that in the end I struggled to finish the book and yes I could see that it was well written but that was of no benefit to me as it was way too long and depressive for me.
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on 20 August 2015
A sinister mystery this, partly location, and partly the feeling that Dalgliesh is not operating at the full capacity of his deductive powers. He has been ill and goes to Dorset to convalesce, to visit an elderly friend. His love and energy for detecting are muted, there are hints he may not continue.
On arrival in Dorset he finds his friend, Father Baddeley has died. Dalgliesh is inevitably drawn into the daily life at Toynton Hall, the care home at which the Father was chaplain. All is not as it seems. Baddeley’s was not the first death. But Dalgliesh looks at clues and is unusually reticent, unmotivated, tired.
This is an intricate story set in a strange community with overtones of religious fervour, financial difficulties, disabilities not clearly explained, relationships tangled, past stories and resentments lurking beneath the surface.
I am re-reading PD James in order and with this, the fifth in the series, she seems to be getting into the rhythm which those familiar with the last of the Dalgliesh books will recognise. Dalgliesh is oddly denuded in this book, giving us an insight into his character we have not have seen before, we see beneath the professional face: he has been ill, is tired, less patient, and the mask of his profession sometimes slips. Fascinating, a hint of the detective into which he will evolve in the later books.
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on 24 September 2011
The novel is certainly well written and is an intelligent thriller. As one would expect from PD James, the characters are intereting and well rounded. I particularly liked the ending where she plays a little game with the reader, casting just a scintilla of doubt about whether Dalgleish really did experience it all. But what I did not like was the continuous stream of typographical errors, many of them originating from what I assume was the scanning of the text into the kindle format. For example, cliff might become diff and so on. It is this sort of irritating error that makes one prefer the real, paper artefact.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 1 January 2013
I have just finished reading The Black Tower and found it a most interesting book that I had to go back to and finish as I wanted to know all the facts. This book is full of well painted pictures and the characters do come off the page. The story is full of detail and I could see the cottage and the tower and the different rooms within the institution. I don't think I would have stayed a night in a place like that but the cottage seemed less threatening. I had not guessed about the real source of income being gained from the trips to Lourdes and so that was a good twist. These P D James stories are very much about people and their influence over others or interactions and that is why I enjoy them. This is definitely worth reading and I am sure will encourage a further selection...
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on 30 October 2000
Set on a lonely stretch of the Dorset coast in the mid-Seventies, The Black Tower is an unusual crime thriller. Although it functions perfectly well as a conventional whodunit, it's also a modern gothic, and, like its predecessors in that genre, it's a meditation on mortality and human frailty. Much of the book's power derives from James's scrupulous exploration of the character and states of mind of her hero. The poet-policeman, Commander Adam Dalgleish, is a subtle and compelling creation, and his substantiality helps to ground a plot that might otherwise seem to teeter on the brink of melodrama.
The tone is set with the 'resurrection' of Dalgleish, who as the book begins is recovering from a serious illness, which initially had been misdiagnosed as mortal. This brush with death has had a profound psychological impact on Dalgleish, and his decision to make his convalescence coincide with a duty visit to an old acquaintance seems from the first an attempt to postpone a confrontation with his own unanswered questions.
Disenchanted with policing Dalgleish may be, but when he is confronted with the merest suspicion of foul play, his instincts reassert themselves in spite of his inclinations. The atmosphere of illness, frustrated hopes, and impending disaster gathers force with every page as Dalgleish, against his will, is drawn deeper into the poisoned community of Toynton Grange.
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on 7 May 2012
In my younger days I loved the TV interpretations of the Commander Dalgliesh series, but was disappointed at how poorly this book has aged.

The plot had lots of twists and turns and the writing is of a good standard - but you can tell it was written in 1975 (was it even ok back then to say someone had reacted like a "hysterical queer"?). BTW - the first word may not have been hysterical, exactly, as I can't find the page now. But I'm sure you get my drift.

What really turned me off was the ending. Without wishing to spoil it for anyone how the hell he came to the conclusion he did I have NO idea. It wasn't what was going on at Toynton Grange that was far fetched in so much as the story jumped so suddenly to the conclusion that I thought I'd turned a couple of pages and flicked back.

I know Dalgliesh is supposed to have this brilliant, analytical mind - but it would be nice to know what clue led him to knowing what was being traded. He seemed to have reached his conclusion purely on the basis that someone was unaccountably wealthy.

But, if you are willing to overlook some minor moans (how can a book about a tower with 8 windows on it's 3rd level have a picture on the front that no where near resembles it?) then it's a decent read. Just not for someone who was nostalgically remembering how good the TV series was....
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on 1 December 2014
Least enjoyable of the Dalgleish novels. It is written with Dalgleish being in a potentially career/life changing time and with him not leading his team following procedure. PDJ is even handed in her novels in that all the supporting cast are always flawed and unpleasant in their own ways. This is always combined with a strong link between the physical descriptions and assigned characters (e.g. tall slim characters are intelligent and aloof independent types, then there are the sturdy reliable sidekicks, and so on). Where it makes uncomfortable reading is when all the chronically sick are mean and selfish or pathetically needy and self obsessed. I wish that PDJ had on this occasion included a altruistic decent character, whether or not they were one of the chronically ill, to lighten the feel of the book.

I wish I had been reading one of the better Dalgleish novels when PDJ's death was announced, the series novels are usually formulaic enjoyable period detective stories.
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on 11 August 2014
The plot is absorbing and the setting very unusual and atmospheric. The Dalgleish in this book is not the usual one either, but a weakened character recovering from a serious illness and considering leaving the police force. The theme of frailty is mirrored in the main characters and where most of them live - in a home for the disabled not far from a ruined tower.
The frustration felt by Dalgleish at not being his usual, masterful and confident self and his general disillusionment comes across well, but some of the main characters were rather eccentric, straining credulity a bit. Also, the method used for the murders and the motive for them (no spoilers here) seemed a bit dated as the book was written in the seventies.
While this is not her best book in terms of plausibility, it deserves four stars for being well written and just as much of a "page-turner" as her other books.
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