250. The Private Patient by P.D. James

The Private Patient by P.D. James -Canada -US
Adam Dalgliesh Mystery, Book 14

Pages: 395 pgs.
Ages: 18+
Finished: Dec. 7, 2009
First Published: Nov. 18, 2008,
Genre: mystery, British police procedural
Rating: 4/5

First sentence:

On November the 21st, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death.

Acquired: Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Reason for Reading: I'm a fan of P.D. James.

Summary: Rhoda Gradwyn goes to an exclusive manor, which houses a plastic surgery and recuperation facility, out in the English countryside to have a large scar on her face removed, one she has had since childhood. The morning after the operation she is found strangled to death in her bed. Being only one of two patients, a nurse, an assistant doctor, a small household staff, and a couple of on property live-ins the suspect list is limited. Adam Dalgliesh is called along with his partner Kate to solve the death of this famous investigative journalist.

Comments: It has been a while since I've settled down with Adam Dalgliesh and what a delight it was! James continues to write the quintessential British mystery, taking place in a house full of people where one them must be the murderer, and she both keeps the old-fashioned air to it while at the same time keeping it modern. There are many times when one really has no awareness of the time period, old stone cottages, an old manor way out in the country, bicycling instead of using the car, with nothing intrinsically modern standing out and yet we know the time is the present as people simply answer their cell phones, go to print something off the computer, speak of DNA, etc.

James takes time to build her story, the first 100 pages or so are about the murder victim's life leading up to her murder. Adam Dalgliesh is a thinking man. He and his officer's ask questions, take statements and at the end of the day get together and piece together what they've got so far over coffee or wine. You won't find the hero running through the woods trying to capture the killer in this book. No, you'll find yourself baffled with the explanations, trying to figure out 'whodunit'. Then a second murder happens and suddenly all your theories are thrown out the window but AD doesn't seem fazed. He picks up the pieces and starts putting them back together.

A very enjoyable mystery. I was shocked in the middle but by the time the reveal came at the end I'd figured it out too, but that didn't lessen my enjoyment. I really enjoy reading gruesome serial killer mysteries but sometimes there is nothing like sitting down with a master mystery writer such as P.D. James and experiencing not just a brilliantly crafted mystery but an intelligent one as well, written with James' wonderful command of the English language. I found myself reading sentences twice just because I like the way they are written. A very good book, but not for those who expect a quick, wild plot. The Private Patient is more for those who like to figure out an intriguing puzzle while getting to know an assortment of eccentric characters.


  1. I've read a couple of books in the series so far and really liked them. P.D. James really has a way with getting into her characters' heads. You make me want to pick up where I left off and revisit Adam Dalgliesh. :-)


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