He wondered briefly where Deborah Riscoe had dined, and with whom. Their meeting now seemed part of a different world. Perhaps because he was tired he felt none of the confidence with which he usually began a case. He did not seriously believe that the crime would defeat him. Professionally, he had never yet known the taste of failure. It was all the more irritating, therefore, to be visited by this vague sensation of inadequacy and unrest. For the first time he felt unsure of his own mastery, as if he were opposed by an intelligence actively working against him and equal to his own.
Attending a party given by his publishers, and musing whether or not to invite Deborah Riscoe to have dinner with him, Adam Dalgliesh is interrupted in his thoughts by a call from the Yard. There has been a murder at the Steen – a psychiatric clinic- that has a reputation of catering only to the rich. Arriving at the scene, he discovers the body of the Administrative officer with a chisel thrust powerfully thru her heart and a fetish in her arms as though cradling a baby. Thus begins an investigation into a ‘locked-room’ mystery with only a handful of suspects. A list that includes directors, doctors, nurses, porters - all with the expertise to have thrust that chisel with acute precision; many with a grudge against the dead woman; and one with a hatred so strong that it could kill.
The second in the Adam Dalgliesh series sees the Inspector in a melancholy mood. Full of conflicting feelings regarding both his personal life and this particular professional case, we glimpse a more vulnerable side to his personality. James has always been top-notch in creating atmosphere but in this book even her characterization is of the first order. What I liked best about the book was how we get to know what is passing thru the minds of almost every character rather than merely those of the detectives. Cryptic conversations add further to an entertaining mystery.
First Line: Dr. Paul Steiner, consultant psychiatrist at the Steen Clinic, sat in the front ground-floor consulting room and listened to his patient’s highly rationalized explanation of the failure of his third marriage.
Author: P.D. James
Series: Adam Dalgliesh
: Penguin, 1988 London
First published: 1963