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Death in Holy Orders (Adam Dalgliesh Mystery Series #11) Hardcover – April 10, 2001

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st American ed edition (April 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375412557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375412554
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (180 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Despite challenges from Ruth Rendell and (more recently) Minette Walters, P.D. James's position as Britain's Queen of Crime remains largely unassailable. Although a certain reaction has set in to her reputation (and there are those who claim her poetry-loving copper Adam Dalgliesh doesn't correspond to any of his counterparts in the real world), her detractors can scarcely deny her astonishing literary gifts. More than any other writer, she has elevated the detective story into the realms of literature, with the psychology of the characters treated in the most complex and authoritative fashion. Her plots, too, are full of intriguing detail and studed with brilliantly observed character studies. Who cares if Dalgliesh belongs more in the pages of a book than poking around a graffiti-scrawled council estate? As a policeman, he is considerably more plausible than Doyle's Holmes, and that's never stopped us loving the Baker Street sleuth. Death in Holy Orders represents something of a challenge from James to her critics, taking on all the contentious elements and rigorously reinvigorating them. She had admitted that she was finding it increasingly difficult to find new plots for Dalgliesh, and the locale here (a theological college on a lonely stretch of the East Anglian coast) turns out to be an inspired choice. We're presented with the enclosed setting so beloved of golden age detective writers, and James is able to incorporate her theological interests seamlessly into the plot (but never in any doctrinaire way; the nonbeliever is never uncomfortable). The body of a student at the college is found on the shore, suffocated by a fall of sand. Dalgliesh is called upon to reexamine the verdict of accidental death (which the student's father would not accept). Having visited the College of St. Anselm in his boyhood, he finds the investigation has a strong nostalgic aspect for him. But that is soon overtaken by the realization that he has encountered the most horrific case of his career, and another visitor to the college dies a horrible death. As an exploration of evil--and as a piece of highly distinctive crime writing--this is James at her nonpareil best. Dalgliesh, too, is rendered with new dimensions of psychological complexity. --Barry Forshaw,

From Publishers Weekly

Baroness James may have turned 80, but neither she nor her dogged Scotland Yard detective Commander Adam Dalgliesh (last seen in 1997's A Certain Justice) shows any sign of flagging in this superb whodunit, with its extraordinarily complex and nuanced plot and large cast of credible characters. When the body of a young ordinand, Ronald Treeves, turns up buried in a sandy bank on the Suffolk coast near isolated St. Anselm's, a High Anglican theological college, it's unclear whether his death was an accident, suicide or murder. The mystery deepens a few days later when someone suffocates Margaret Munroe, a retired nurse with a bad heart, because she remembers an event 12 years earlier that could have some bearing on whatever's amiss at St. Anselm's. Enter Dalgliesh at the behest of Ronald's father, Sir Alred, who's received an anonymous note suggesting foul play in his son's death. It isn't long before another death occurs, and this time it's clearly murder: late one night in the chapel, somebody bashes in the head of Archdeacon Crampton, a hard-nosed outsider who wanted to close St. Anselm's. Dalgliesh and his investigative team examine the complicated motives of a host of suspects resident at the college, mostly ordinands and priests, slowly unveiling the connections among the various deaths. Illegitimacy, incest, a secret marriage, a missing cloak and a valuable altar triptych are just some of the ingredients in a case as contrived as any Golden Age classic but presented with such masterful ease and conviction that even the most skeptical readers will suspend disbelief. This is a natural for PBS Mystery adaptation. (Apr. 19)Forecast: With a 300,000-copy first printing, this BOMC main selection is sure to race up the bestseller lists.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

I have read and re-read the P.D. James books and consider this one of her best.
Patience Myers
Her exposition develops her character as well as the background of the book's story.
Donald Mitchell
The plot moved along well, and the author did keep me guessing right up to the end.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Leigh Ann Hussey on May 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Nobody gets inside a character's head, lets you see through their eyes, experience their feelings, like P.D. James. You're right there, feeling the same horror a main character feels on discovering a body, understanding completely that feeling of needing to DO something, of bewilderment at seeing something that used to be a person you knew and now is lifeless meat.
So many wonderful details! This too, is one of James' strengths. I really felt right there in an elite seminary on a disintegrating coastline pounded by weather. In fact, the book was so absorbing that I read it straight through, with barely a stop for sleep!
A friend of mine, unfamiliar with James' other works, asked me a question you may also be asking yourself: "Can I start here, or do I need to read the others first?" My answer is, go right ahead and start here. It stands well on its own; recurring characters are introduced gracefully and with just enough backstory to bring a new reader up to speed while not boring a reader already familiar. James is part of the newer generation of British women mystery authors, along with writers like Ngaio Marsh -- more modern-feeling than Christie or Sayers, but if you like Sayers in particular, I think you'll like James.
And if you're already been thru the previous ten AD mysteries? You'll love this one. It's definitely one of the best yet. I'm really really happy I bought it right when it came out, hardcover price notwithstanding.
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44 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Laura G. Carter on May 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
P. D. James is, without doubt, the greatest living mystery writer today. Bar none. "Death In Holy Orders", her latest Adam Dalglish offering, merely cements this fact - as if it needed it.
The body of a young ordinand is discovered, smothered by a collapse of sand, on the beach near St. Anselem's, a theological college on the lonely shores of East Anglia. Ironically, St. Anselem's was also a particularly important place in Dalglish's boyhood and, when he is called to investigate this shocking murder, his journey there represents in microcosm the disparity between the new England and the old, the former way of living butting heads with the new, a theme carried delicately throughout the book in many ways, including the characters and how they live and think.
Subsequently, two more murders are committed - the last a most gruesome, shocking dispatching taking place in the chapel of all places - and Dalglish calls in Kate Miskin and company to assist him in finding the perpetrator.
A new twist added here is the subtle romantic situation occurring in the background between Dalglish and one of the people staying at the college during the murders. The ending is more satisfying than "A Certain Justice" and I liked the fact that Ms. James alludes to Dalglish's feelings about the end of the matter written about in "Justice". He feels he failed, somehow, and these feelings make finding this latest killer an even more urgent matter - not only to stop him killing again, but to reassure Dalglish that justice does, indeed, come around more often than not.
A wonderful novel from a terrific writer.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By dikybabe on April 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Whoever loves artful writing and whodunit entwined will love P. D. James' latest Adam Dalgleish mystery. Wonderfully set on the East Anglian coast midst ever-changing and threatening nature where an holy order of priests and would-be priests/ordinands reside, this mystery unwinds around the suspicious accidental death of a rich man's son. And once the on leave Dalgleish joins the inquiry, murders just keep coming.
There is romantic, even incestuous, human fraility in this four part novel. There are jealousy, animosity, cross purposes, greed, deceit, anger, depression and revenge at work. Each character is skillfully drawn, especially those that are linked with Dalgleish's past and present, and the setting exacts added suspense to a seemingly pastoral setting.
The decline of the Arbuthnot estate's endowed theological seminary is central to the plot. One can guess that each character is linked to that demise in some fashion. And just as in a good Agatha Christie novel, the characters are tied to one another openly and in disguise, and await the skillful unraveling of the poetic and sensitive intellect of Dalgleish and his cohorts Kate, Piers, and Robbins.
Such a pleasure to relax into a well-written tome! James makes Dalgleish a friend of the reader, a character come to life, someone we know and willingly follow into a mystery that needs solving.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By P. A. Hogan on May 9, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With this her 17th book, P.D. James once again executes an admirable balancing act by combining, in her definition of a classic detective story, "a credible mystery with believable characters and a setting which both complements and integrates the action." The setting is East Anglia, one used by James in a number of her novels. It is here on the gloomy, windswept Suffolk coast, within yards of the North Sea, that we find St. Anselm's, a small theological college with only four resident priests and a student body that never exceeds twenty. St. Anselm's is described as High Church, probably Prayer Book Catholic, strong on theology, elitist, opposed to practically everything that's happened in Anglicanism in the past 50 years . . . and the food and wine are good. It is the action's locus, of which the reader is well aware long before Detective Inspector Kate Miskin observes, "So, it's going to be one of those self-contained cases with all the suspects under one roof . . ."
In "Death in Holy Orders," James gives us an apparent suicide (Ronald Treeves, ordinand), a certified natural death (Margaret Munroe, employee), and a brutal murder (Archdeacon Crampton, guest and trustee). Commander Adam Dalgliesh, who is brought to St. Anselm's at the request of Ronald Treeves's influential father, is convinced that the three deaths are connected. The Treeves and Munroe deaths occur before his arrival, but the murder of the unpopular Archdeacon takes place during Dalgliesh's stay at the college. Upon viewing the body, he becomes angered and vows to lift the burden of his past failure ("A Certain Justice") by making an arrest in the present murder. Soon after, yet another death (murder or accident?) broadens the challenge.
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More About the Author

P. D. James is the author of twenty previous books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Departments of Great Britain's Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she celebrated her eightieth birthday and published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991 and was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008. She lives in London and Oxford.

Photo credit Ulla Montan

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