Friday, June 24, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: P.D. James' The Private Patient

I love the fictional character of Adam Dalgliesh. As I mentioned earlier, I totally picture the actor Clive Owen when I read a Dalgleish mystery. (Ironically--and I didn't put this together till just recently--Owen starred in the movie adaptation of James' book, The Children of Men.)

That being said, although I enjoyed The Private Patient and it kept me turning the pages, I'm a bit ambivalent about it.

First let me set the stage for you--this synopsis from

In James's stellar 14th Adam Dalgliesh mystery (after 2006's The Lighthouse), the charismatic police commander knows the case of Rhoda Gradwyn, a 47-year-old journalist murdered soon after undergoing the removal of an old disfiguring scar at a private plastic surgery clinic in Dorset, may be his last; James's readers will fervently hope it isn't. Dalgliesh probes the convoluted tangle of motives and hidden desires that swirl around the clinic, Cheverell Manor, and its grimly fascinating suspects in the death of Gradwyn, herself a stalker of minds driven by her lifelong passion for rooting out the truth people would prefer left unknown and then selling it for money.
My thoughts:

First of all, it's a bit disconcerting that Dalgleish doesn't show up until we're well into the book. This has been true of the two or three other Dalgleish mysteries I've read as well. Since he's my favorite character, I'd like for him to be involved earlier on. Maybe that's just me?

Also, I can't claim to be a conoisseur of mysteries, despite the fact that a few years ago I went on an avid Agatha Christie spree. But I personally enjoy a mystery where I'm really shocked and surprised by who the murderer is, when finally revealed.

That doesn't happen in this book--at least not for me.

Another thing. I had a hard time caring about any of the characters besides Dalgleish and his assistants, Kate and Benton. Most of the characters lacked anything that would draw me to them or make me care about them, including the murder victims.

So why did I keep reading, and actually find the book enjoyable?

Well, I like James' writing style. I DID want to find out who the murderer was. And yes, I really like Adam Dalgleish. He is a character who is three-dimensional...a poet, a detective, a handsome man, an enigma. Dalgleish is just very appealing.

"My" Adam Dalgleish--actor Clive Owen

I would recommend this book to mystery lovers. You may thoroughly enjoy it, and not be bothered by the few things that somewhat bothered me.

That's all despite the fact that when I reached the end of the book, it was oddly anti-climactic. Not a "Wow, that was a great book!" More like an, "Oh...OK."

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click on the icon for more info!



Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Are these books scary at all? I don't like to be scared, so I don't experiment much with mysteries or thrillers. Clive Owen might convince me to watch the movie you mention, though! ;-)

Glynn said...

I love P.D. James - and thanks for the review.

Becky said...

Thanks for the review! I'd not heard of P.D. James, I'll have to give her a try! (I've only been reading mysteries since January.)

Laura said...

I love P.D. James' mysteries, and I did enjoy this one, although I have to agree with you that it's not her best. I was so amazed and happy that she wrote it - when I thought at her advanced age, surely she was done! - that I read it very quickly. It wouldn't be one I'd recommend to anyone who had never read a mystery by her, that's for certain. I enjoyed your review!

Elaine Stock said...

Very interesting insight, Cindy, about what lures you to finishing a book. A good author's voice can still have me turning pages even if characters are less than dazzling.


Corey P. said...

"I really like Adam Dalgleish. He is a character who is three-dimensional...a poet, a detective, a handsome man, an enigma."

Hmmm... He sounds like a four-dimensional character to me. ;)

Great review. I may have to pick up a P.D. James mystery sometime in the near future.

Anonymous said...

Great review! I started the Adam Dalgliesh books a few years ago and love Adam too. I didn't finish the series though. I do that too often with great mystery series - never finish.

Beckie B. said...

I love P D James, especially her Adam Dagleish books. Thanks for the review and stopping by the my blog.

Alice said...

I got the distinct feeling when I read this book that it would be the last Dalgliesh novel. PD James said in an interview last year that she wasn't sure if she would write another one--and she'll be 91 years old in August. If it is, I feel it is a good end to the series even if it wasn't her best Dalgliesh book (which in my personal opinion was "Original Sin").

RayF said...

I just finished "The Private Patient" and enjoyed it, altough I do agree with the others that it was not her best. I do love her rich writing style, and her philosphy that a good mystery must also be a good novel.
I'd love to hear from others as to what their favorite PD James mystery is. With 19 of them out there, I'd like to concentrate on the best ones! Many thanks.


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