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The Private Patient Paperback – November 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307455289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307455284
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (171 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. Beyond the book's central moral concern, James meditates on universal problems like aging (the amorphous flattening of self) and the government's education policy, which targets 50% of the young as university-bound while ensuring that another 40% are uneducated on leaving secondary school. Against her relentless intellectual view of our dying earth, James pits the love she finally grants Dalgleish—sufficient to reinvigorate hope and faith so rare in both fiction and reality today. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Both P. D. James and Adam Dalgliesh, both in their 80s, have aged like fine wine. Critics agreed that if The Private Patient, a closed-room mystery, is not among the best in the series, it nonetheless outranks most crime fiction. James brings her usual intellect to bear on this novel: literary references and philosophical discussions; an elegant, leisurely style; a highly atmospheric setting; suspicious distant relatives; and meaningful coincidences. Reviewers diverged, however, on the characterization and plotting. Some thought the characters were psychologically complex, while others thought they—along with the plot—were "reduced to a kind of box-ticking" (Guardian). Finally, Dalgliesh didn't seem completely present—perhaps in anticipation of his imminent retirement and marriage.
Copyright 2009 Bookmarks Publishing LLC --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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

Customer Reviews

The ending was just a little too neat with all ends tied (in bows).
Sharon Guthrie
There's no other detective like Adam Dalgliesh, and there's no other mystery writer like the great P. D. James.
Tom S.
James is a master of setting scenes and delineating the inner mind of her characters.
Israel Drazin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

131 of 137 people found the following review helpful By digerati VINE VOICE on November 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
PD James fans are in for a treat in this finely crafted murder mystery. The set up is familiar: a murder occurs in a closed community; it looks like an inside job, which means there are only a handful of suspects -- but that doesn't make it easier for AD and his usual team to crack the case.

James gives us great characterization -- the opinions, desires and weaknesses are gradually revealed as the plot proceeds, and no character is superfluous. We learn more about our favorite characters: AD and Emma Lavenham are planning their wedding, Kate Miskin has broken up with Piers and Benton is developing into a more interesting character.

At the same time, James' weaves in a gorgeous portrayal of the Dorset countryside, making it part of the fabric of the storyline. Having lived there for a couple of years, this book perfectly captures the images, sounds and even smells of one of the most beautiful parts of England.

The plotting is intricate with many layers. Even if you guess whodunnit, there are layers upon layers of devices and desires so that at the end, everything has fallen into place, meshing perfectly with the characters and revealing hidden depths.

Without giving the end away, PD James also finishes up several character storylines. If she were never to write another book, the series would have reached a satisfying conclusion with this great work of fiction. A real treat and immensely enjoyable.
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is not P.D. James's finest mystery novel.
That said, even something that is a notch below this wonderful writer's prime still stands head and shoulders above most of what is being produced by the vast majority of her peers. Her writing, her careful attention to detail, her descriptive powers have only improved with age.
So, too, have the deductive skills of Adam Dalgliesh, many decades after he made his first appearance in the novels penned by this doyenne of crime. He remains as intriguing and occasionally enigmatic figure as ever, although James gives us more carefully-judged glimpses into his inner life than I can recall in any previous novel.
In this outing (hopefully not his final one...), Dalgliesh investigates one of his classic conundrums: a murder that could only have been committed by one of a closed circle of suspects. (That backdrop, typical of James's mysteries, enables her to delve deeply into character and motivation, which is what, together with her writing, transforms this from an ordinary whondunnit into a fabulous read.) Rhoda Gradwyn has finally decided, at the age of 47, to have the disfiguring scar on her face removed at the manor house/clinic run by a noted plastic surgeon. The operation is a success -- but the patient dies. It's murder, and Dalgliesh and his team are summoned to find out who had the most compelling motive to want this muck-racking journalist dead.
It is a mark of the strength of James's characters that we feel compassion for everyone from the victim -- hoping to leave behind some of her internal scars along with the visible one on her face -- to the murderer.
Read more ›
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111 of 121 people found the following review helpful By Tom S. TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Cheverell Manor, an exclusive cosmetic surgery clinic on the remote Dorset moors, a patient has been murdered. Not just any patient: Rhoda Gradwyn was an investigative journalist, a purveyor of private secrets and sensational scandals for the "yellow" media. Anyone might have wanted her dead, given the opportunity, but Cheverell Manor is locked and guarded, reducing the suspect list to the odd group of eccentrics who were with her at the time. There are about a dozen of them--doctors, nurses, administrators, staff, and one other patient--and they all have something to hide. Fortunately for the cause of justice (and unfortunately for the killer), Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard has been sent out from London to look into the matter....

Some things just get better with age, and P. D. James's wonderful chronicle of Adam Dalgliesh is one of them. We first met him in 1962's COVER HER FACE, and THE PRIVATE PATIENT is his 14th adventure so far, making this the longest-running current British mystery series. There are indications throughout this story that it may be the last Dalgliesh novel. Let's hope and pray that it isn't. There's no other detective like Adam Dalgliesh, and there's no other mystery writer like the great P. D. James. Highly, highly recommended.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By mad4books on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
It pains me to give anything by the incomparable P.D. James a rating this low, but it's a measure of my disappointment. Other reviewers have mentioned the tedious repetition, the unnecessary PC excursions, the lack of focus and coherence, and, most painful of all, Dalgliesh's descent into bland irrelevance. What was most unsatisfactory, however, was the treatment of the only intriguing character in the book - the victim, who was, after all, the title character. It is as though the author began writing one book, lost interest, and decided to write another book altogether. And while Cyril Hare is one of my all-time favorite British mystery writers, I found the use of one of his books as a plot device to be very awkward.

Unlike some reviewers, though, I have no problem with "Spring," the last section of the novel. In what seems to be an affectionate farewell to Dalgliesh et al., James grants her characters some relief from the gloom she has forced them to inhabit for so many years.
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