Cover Her Face (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 291 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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The events of this tale unfold at Martingale, the country home of the Maxies, surrounded by various friends, household staff and other characters from neighboring towns such as Chadfleet New Town and convenient for visits to London proper. All is not harmony in this hamlet: Simon Maxie is on the verge of dying due to old age or associated illnesses; Eleanor Maxie is ever watchful and attentive to her husband's remaining needs; their adult children, Deborah and Stephen, are entangled in unfulfilling or unrequited relationships; several others are at an opening dinner where the entire group "had dined together too often to expect either novelty or stimulation from each other's company."
But hold on a minute! In their midst is a new staff member, Sally Jupp, with her out-of-wedlock newborn son, Johnny. A mischief-maker if ever there was one, Sally has possible designs, it would seem, on just about everybody. At the major Martingale mid-summer charity event Sally appears unexpectedly in a dress very much like the one Deborah is wearing and, as she ascends the staircase to her bedroom that evening, announces to everyone's surprise Stephen and she are engaged...
By next morning Sally has moved beyond these earthly confines, though quite obviously not according to her plan, and left little Johnny Jupp to jump for himself. And so enters Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh to sort through the various stories and figure out what's going on.
Along the way, P.D. James provides some real gems of sardonic send ups: for example, Dalgliesh who "merely craved simple English food properly cooked," is served by a Mrs. Piggot at the local Moonraker's Arms tavern among other delicacies a soup "thick enough to support the spoon unaided,...as startling to the palate as to the eye." For the main course among the legumes are "tinned peas larger and shinier than any peas which had ever seen pod." And dessert is tartly presented as an apple and black current pie "in which neither of the fruits had met each other nor pastry until they had been arranged on the plate by Mrs. Piggot's careful hand and liberally blanketed with synthetic custard."
Possibly skewering her own industry in another section, James characterizes a book group as "Select Books catered for that class of reader which likes a good story without caring much who writes it, prefers to be spared the tedium of personal choice, and believes that a bookcase of volumes equal in size and bound in exactly the same color gives tone to any room." The wit of this observation calls to mind the libraries of Jane Austin's early nineteenth century England in which James has set her latest work, "Murder Comes to Pemberley" (which I have reviewed in its Amazon location).
It is entertainment neatly packaged, delightful to curl up with a cup of something warm while traveling even if it's no further than to and from your favorite armchair.
I have to note, too, that there are chronological problems with the series that are made apparent in this first volume. Dalgliesh has already developed a reputation as a homicide investigator and is already a Detective Chief Inspector, implying that he's at least in his mid-30s (and almost certainly older). And that's in 1962, so he was born in the late 1920s. He even has clear adolescent memories of the war. Therefore, in his most recent outing, in 2010, he would have to be in his mid-to-late 80s. Are we to believe that Scotland Yard doesn't have a mandatory retirement program for its active investigators -- even its stars?