Awhile back (say the beginning of January), I checked out Crimes Times Three, a collection of three P.D. James mysteries, from my local library and quickly devoured the first two mysteries in it, Cover Her Face and a Mind to Murder. I was disappointed to then discover, that the third mystery in the book, wasn’t the third mystery in her Adam Dalgliesh series, but the fourth one (Shroud for a Nightingale)…I have this thing about reading mystery series in order. I then had to wait awhile for the library to get me the third one (Unnatural Causes). I’ve now read all four and find them simply delightful. Her work keeps me guessing as to “who done it.” She also a great way getting into the heads of and characterizing the various “suspects” in the book. She also develops her main detective character slowly, but doesn’t flood us with details about his life. This is in contrast to the Southern Vampire Mystery series by Charlaine Harris (I’ve also read Definately Dead and All Together Dead recently) where we get more focus on the details of Sookie’s life. James’ books also includes gay and lesbian characters, which is rarer for time period in which they were published (1962, 1963, 1967, 1971). Her novels give us a good sense of English society and societal issues around that time period.
My favorite of the four mysteries is Shroud for a Nightingale. James writes in her intro to Crimes Times Three, that she and Dalgliesh were “well established in theambigious and complicated parternship that exists between the writer and a continuing creation,” and it shows. In Shroud for a Nightingale, Dangliesh investigates the death of two student nurses at a training hospital. Who did it was fairly obvious, but their motive provides the novel’s great twist at the end.
Here’s a teaser passage, “The John Carpendar uniform struck her as interestingly out of date. Nearly every hospital she visited had replaed the old-fashioned winged caps with the smaller American-type which were easier to wear, quicker to make up, and cheaper to buy and launder. Some hospitals, to Miss Beale’s regreat were issuing disaaposable paper caps. But a hospital’s nurse uniform were always jealously defended and changed with reluctance and the John Carpendar was obviously wedded to tradition.”
I’ll definately be reading more James, possibly soon. Winter is a lovely time for mysteries.