Summary and book reviews of The Lighthouse by P.D. James

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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Book Summary

Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves; Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems; and the ambitious Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly has the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects than there is a second brutal killing, and the whole investigation is jeopardized when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh was not unused to being urgently summoned to non-scheduled meetings with unspecified people at inconvenient times, but usually with one purpose in common: he could be confident that somewhere there lay a dead body awaiting his attention. There were other urgent calls, other meetings, sometimes at the highest level. Dalgliesh, as a permanent ADC to the Commissioner, had a number of functions which, as they grew in number and importance, had become so ill-defined that most of his colleagues had given up trying to define them. But this meeting, called in Assistant Commissioner Harkness's office on the seventh floor of New Scotland Yard at ten-fifty-five on the morning of Saturday, 23 October, had, from his first entry into the room, the unmistakable presaging of murder. This had nothing to do with a certain serious tension on the ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Globe & Mail

An elegant and perceptive writer - rich drifts of prose pile up on the page, descriptive passages are Dickensian in length, ornament and power.... James's many fans will relish The Lighthouse, for all its poise and narrative familiarity.

The Toronto Sun

With her trademark blend of subtle characterization, vivid sense of place and deceptively simple plot, James pulls off another triumph. A beautifully written page-turner from the queen of the genre.

Times Literary Supplement

James's gifts animate and transform the armature into something exceptional. Her disciplined conventions, her observation of social and class niceties, renew the traditional Franco-British drama of domestic crime. She is a very superior writer of detection.

The Daily Express

James has proven that she deserves her reputation as our leading 'literary' crime writer. The Lighthouse confirms that she is also the most enjoyable.

Publishers Weekly

The solution.... is less than fully satisfactory and also borrows elements from some of James's recent plots. Devotees more interested in her hero's personal growth than his deductive technique will find much to enjoy.

Kirkus Reviews

Although the story is briefer than James's recent double-deckers, readers will still revel in her matchless fullness of characterization. A stay on Combe Island really is tonic.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Starred Review. It's what happens between the lines that gives James' stories their punch.... Each new Dalgleish novel should be treated as a gift by mystery fans everywhere.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

The Lighthouse is too rooted in genre conventions to count originality as its strong suit. But it has deviousness to burn, and it also offers other enticements. It's the kind of book that boasts a wryly humorous Scrabble scene, not to mention a Scrabble-lover's vocabulary: Ms. James makes ready use of words like abseil, belay, symphysis and meiosis. It's a book that serves up figurative red herring as well as melon balls in orange sauce. Not a menu goes unmentioned ... it is a sturdy installment in a well-honed series, which is a concept that even its characters understand.

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Beyond the Book

"The greatest mystery of all is the human heart, and that is the mystery with which all good novelists are concerned."

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park OBE, better known as P. D. James, was born in 1920.  Leaving school at 16 due to financial hardships at home, she took a variety of jobs before joining the National Health Service to support her family.  She moved to the Civil Service in 1968 and worked there until she retired to write full-time in 1979.  She wrote her first novel,Cover Her Face, the first in the Adam Dalgliesh series, on the train to and from work  It was published in 1962

For a more complete biography of P.D. James and more quotes, please see this ...

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