Top positive review
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Doesn't do anything new... but what it does, it does very well
on 18 May 2009
I loved the early PD James but haven't read the last 3-4 books as it seemed to me that she had lost her way slightly. The Private Patient in lots of ways is a return to the classic detective story: the closed atmosphere of the private clinic, the delving into the personalities and back-stories of the suspects, and the final twisting denouement.
I won't repeat the plot as other reviewers have already done that, but this treads a fine line between the predictable and the enticing. Perhaps precisely because I've had a long break from James, I enjoyed this immensely. Dalgleish seems much softer and more nuanced than in some of the earlier books and his team is an interesting one.
There are some moments that don't quite work (why is Dalgleish's team called in? This doesn't seem to be a politically sensitive case?) and some threads are started and then not followed up. The final solution also seemed to me to be a tad unsatisfactory in personality terms, and some of the characters are very cliched. James' own social background was more prominent here than I've noticed before: so many people appear to be academics with a Classics background and more people are at home with Latin tags than I suspect is the case in 'real' life.
However, all that doesn't detract at all from a compelling story, well told. So overall this doesn't stretch the detective fiction genre in any way at all - and why should it? - but what it does, it does very well indeed.