Excerpt from The Lighthouse by P.D. James, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lighthouse

By P.D. James

The Lighthouse
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2005,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2006,
    352 pages.

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Harkness said, "Only one resident has a criminal conviction, the boatman Jago Tamlyn in 1998 for GBH. I gather there were mitigating circumstances but it must have been a serious attack. He got twelve months. He's been in no trouble since."

Dalgliesh asked, "When did the current visitors arrive?"

"All five in the last week. The writer Nathan Oliver, together with his daughter Miranda and copy-editor Dennis Tremlett, came on Monday. A retired German diplomat, Dr. Raimund Speidel, ex-Ambassador to Beijing, came by private yacht from France on Wednesday, and Dr. Mark Yelland, director of the Hayes-Skolling research laboratory in the Midlands, which has been targeted by the animal-liberation activists, arrived on Thursday. Maycroft will be able to put you in the picture."

Harkness broke in, "Better take the minimum of people, at least until you know what you're dealing with. The smaller the invasion the better."

Dalgliesh said, "It will hardly be an invasion. I'm still awaiting a replacement for Tarrant, but I'll take Inspector Miskin and Sergeant Benton-Smith. We can probably manage without a SOCO or official photographer at this stage, but if it proves to be murder, I'll have to have reinforcements or let the local force take over. I'll need a pathologist. I'll speak to Kynaston if I can reach him. He may be away from his lab on a case."

Harkness said, "That won't be necessary. We're using Edith Glenister. You know her, of course."

"Hasn't she retired?"

Conistone said, "Officially two years ago, but she does work occasionally, mostly on sensitive overseas cases. At sixty-five she's probably had enough of trudging gum-booted through muddy fields with the local CID, examining decomposing bodies in ditches."

Dalgliesh doubted whether this was why Professor Glenister had officially retired. He had never worked with her but he knew her reputation. She was among the most highly regarded of women forensic pathologists, notable for an almost uncanny accuracy in assessing the time of death, for the speed and comprehensiveness of her reports and for the clarity and authority with which she gave evidence in court. She was notable, too, for her insistence on maintaining the distinction between the functions of the pathologist and the investigating officer. Professor Glenister, he knew, would never hear details of the circumstances of the murder before examining the body, ensuring, presumably, that she came to the corpse with no preconceived ideas. He was intrigued by the prospect of working with her and had no doubt that it was the FCO who had originally suggested using her. All the same, he would have preferred his usual forensic pathologist.

He said, "You're not implying that Miles Kynaston can't be trusted to keep his mouth shut?"

Harkness broke in. "Of course not, but Cornwall is hardly his patch. Professor Glenister is stationed at present in the south-west. Anyway, Kynaston isn't available, we've checked." Dalgliesh was tempted to say, How convenient for the FCO. They certainly hadn't lost any time. Harkness went on, "You can pick her up at RAF St. Mawgan, near Newquay, and they'll arrange a special helicopter to take the body to the mortuary she uses. She'll treat the case as urgent. You should get her report sometime tomorrow."

Excerpted from The Lighthouse by P. D. James Copyright © 2005 by P. D. James. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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