My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Having heard good things about P.D. James I had high hopes for this novel; I was disappointed. I love the placidity you get in British mysteries: Characters of all shapes almost fatalistically accept death, suspicion, attacks in the night, ribald sexuality, deception, and all other manner of human vices. If ever you witness hysterics, there’s always a remedy hand, be it a strong cup of tea, a stiff drink, or a firm slap in the face. This novel gave me all that. The tone is terrifically British. And the mystery itself has a great potential to be interesting.
But this mystery novel was much more about the detective than the case. I’m all for the thorough development of a character, especially a character who leads further stories (Cordelia Gray, in this instance), but there is a lack of balance. The character should be able to be built without overshadowing the case; as is, the details of the mystery became pedestrian, almost perfunctory. I kept waiting for a twist to liven things up–even a cheap one–but it never came. Instead I got an unconvincing justification of some serious breaches of ethics, and a rather frustrating moral for a mystery story. (I’m being vague because one hates to give away the ending of a mystery, even a sub-par one.)
James is a proficient writer in spite of the story and I hope my next experience with her is much better. (And I do plan on reading more of her work.)