Friday, 18 November 2011

Devices and Desires

I really enjoy PD James. She writes very well. She recently (at the age of 92) wrote a sequel to Pride and Prejudice that involves Wickham's murder, which I'd like to read. This, however, is an older book that I found in a used bookshop the other day. It's one of the Adam Dalgliesh series, which is always good.

I have to say, however, I found this book disappointing. Dalgliesh, admittedly never the entire focus of the book, usually has a greater part in it. I didn't feel that that detracted from the book, as it was interesting to see him on the outside of the murder inquiry, looking in - a detached perspective that was able to cut both ways, as police officer and as witness or even suspect. What disappointed me, I think, is that it wasn't as good as I expected it to be. That's the problem with being brilliant -a good book by other standards is only mediocre. I found the aspect of terrorism relating to the nuclear power stations unnecessary and irrelevant, though amusing. Perhaps it was less so when the book was written, around the time that the Cold War ended. I have to say that I found the solution interesting, but I didn't find the motive particularly believable. I certainly didn't find some of the attitudes present particularly believable given the time it was set, but I was only a child at the time. It's perfectly possible that there really were women whose lives were as banal and empty as some of the attitudes and assumptions indicate. I can't imagine any woman in the late 80s or early 90s really being "a dried up spinster" whose life is entirely wrapped up in "keeping house" for her brother. I certainly can't imagine that anyone would actually believe that. But James clearly thought that would be believable, so it must have been at least partially accurate.

All in all, this was a well-written book, well worth reading. It's not quite up to James's usual standard, but given how high that is, this still manages to be a good read.

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