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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  • First Published:
    Nov 2005, 352 pages
    Oct 2006, 352 pages

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Dalgliesh said, "So Maycroft rang you as soon as possible after finding the body? I suppose he was following instructions."

Harkness said, "He was given a phone number, told that it was top secret and instructed to phone the Trustees if anything untoward happened on the island. He's been warned that you'll be arriving by helicopter and to expect you by early afternoon."

Dalgliesh said, "He'll have some difficulty explaining to his colleagues why this particular death should attract a Metropolitan Police commander and a detective inspector instead of being dealt with by the local CID, but I suppose you've covered that."

Harkness said, "As well as we can. The Chief Constable has been put in the picture, of course. There's no point in arguing over which force should take responsibility until we know whether we've got a murder to investigate. In the meantime they'll cooperate. If it is murder and the island is as secure as they claim, there'll be a limited number of suspects. That should speed up the inquiry."

Only someone ignorant of a murder investigation, or who had conveniently forgotten the less successful incidents of his past, could have been so misjudging. A small group of suspects, if each was intelligent and prudent enough to keep his or her counsel and resist the fateful impulse to volunteer more than was asked, could complicate any investigation and bedevil the prosecution.

At the door Conistone turned. "The food's all right on Combe Island, I suppose? The beds comfortable?"

Harkness said coolly, "We've had no time to enquire. Frankly, it didn't occur to me. I should have thought that whether the cook knows her job and the state of the mattresses is more your concern than ours. Our interest is in a dead body."

Conistone took the barb with good humour. "True. We'll check on the amenities if this conference comes off. The first thing the rich and powerful learn is the value of comfort. I should have mentioned that the last surviving Holcombe is a permanent resident on the island, Miss Emily Holcombe, aged eighty plus, a former Oxford academic. History, I believe. Your subject, wasn't it, Adam—but weren't you at the other place? She'll either be an ally or a perfect nuisance. If I know anything about academic women it will be the latter. Thank you for taking this on. We'll be in touch."

Harkness rose to escort Conistone and Reeves out of the building. Leaving them at the lifts, Dalgliesh went back to his office. First he must phone Kate and Benton-Smith. After that there was a more difficult call. He and Emma Lavenham were to have spent tonight and tomorrow together. If she planned to spend the afternoon in London, she might already be on her way. He'd have to reach her on her mobile phone. It wouldn't be the first call of its kind and, as always, she would be half expecting it. She wouldn't complain—Emma never did. Both of them had occasional urgent commitments and their time together was the more precious because it could never be relied upon. And there were three words he wanted to say to her which he found he could never speak over the phone. They too would have to wait.

He put his head round the door of his PA's room. "Get DI Miskin and Sergeant Benton-Smith for me, will you, Susie. Then I'll need a car to go to Battersea Heliport, picking up Sergeant Benton-Smith first, then Inspector Miskin. Her murder case is in her office. See that it's put in the car, will you."

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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