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Beyond the Bookshelf with Britt:

A Mind to Murder by P.D. James

By Britt Nygard
On November 17, 2011

To lovers of the mystery genre, Phyllis Dorothy James, better

known as P.D. James, will be a familiar name. To those of you who prefer other genres, P.D. James is definitely a name that you should add to your reading list. A Mind to Murder, James' second novel, written in 1963, features her most well-known detective and most loved recurring

character, Adam Dalgliesh. Inspector Dalgliesh is a diligent,

intelligent and competent member of Scotland Yard who has the unique characteristic of also being a published poet. In his second appearance, Dalgliesh is faced with the murder of Enid Bolam, an administrative officer

at the Steen Clinic, a private psychiatric firm in a quiet London square. It becomes evident quite early that the self-sufficient and private Miss Bolam left few people behind to mourn her. However, this does not signify a plethora of suspects for Inspector Dalgliesh, who soon

discovers that while Miss Bolam did not inspire love, neither did she inspire hatred. Typical of James' work, A

Mind to Murder contains an abundance of characters, unique yet prototypical all at once. Due to the often short amounts of time that the reader sees each character, it can be a challenge to keep track of each individual. Yet, it is one of the ways in which James is always able to keep you guessing. he is the master of making the obvious obscure.

While I enjoyed A Mind to Murder as I do all James' novels, I

admit this one was not one of my favorites; I prefer her more current works, such as Original Sin (Knopf Publishing 1995). Her early works are certainly shorter (and thus easier to read on a college time budget) but contain less

time to get to know the characters and ultimately less plot turns as a consequence. Having been an avid mystery

reader all of my life, James will never top the classic puzzle

mystery greats of the early 20th century for me. Authors such as Agatha Christie, Rex Stout and Dorothy L. Sayers will always be my favorites, but P.D. James has been dubbed the queen of mystery for a reason and will always

be a worthwhile read.


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