Excerpt from Death In Holy Orders by P.D. James, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Death In Holy Orders

by P.D. James

Death In Holy Orders by P.D. James
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2001, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2002, 416 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

BOOK ONE

The Killing Sand

Chapter One

It was Father Martin's idea that I should write an account of how I found the body.

I asked, "You mean, as if I were writing a letter, telling it to a friend?"

Father Martin said, "Writing it down as if it were fiction, as if you were standing outside yourself, watching it happen, remembering what you did, what you felt, as if it were all happening to someone else."

I knew what he meant, but I wasn't sure I knew where to begin. I said, "Everything that happened, Father, or just that walk along the beach, uncovering Ronald's body?"

"Anything and everything you want to say. Write about the college and about your life here if you like. I think you might find it helpful."

"Did you find it helpful, Father?"

I don't know why I spoke these words, they just came into my mind and I let them out. It was silly really, and in a way it was impertinent, but he didn't seem to mind.

After a pause he said, "No, it didn't really help me, but then, it was all a very long time ago. I think it might be different for you."

I suppose he was thinking about the war and being taken prisoner by the Japanese, the awful events that happened in the camp. He never speaks about the war, but then, why should he do so to me? But I don't think he speaks to anyone, not even to the other priests.

This conversation happened two days ago, when we were walking together through the cloisters after Evensong. I don't go to Mass any more, not since Charlie died, but I do go to Evensong. It's a matter of courtesy really. It doesn't seem right working at the college, taking money from them, accepting all their kindness and never attending any of the services in the church. But perhaps I'm being too sensitive. Mr. Gregory lives in one of the cottages, as I do, and teaches Greek part-time, but he never attends church except when there is music he wants to hear. No one ever presses me to attend, they never even asked why I stopped coming to Mass. But of course they noticed; they notice everything.

When I got back to my cottage I thought about what Father Martin had said and whether perhaps it might not be a good idea. I've never had any difficulty about writing. At school I was good at composition and Miss Allison, who taught us English, said she thought I might have the talent to be a writer. But I knew that she was wrong. I haven't any imagination, not the kind novelists need. I can't make things up. I can only write about what I see and do and know--and sometimes what I feel, which isn't as easy. Anyway, I always wanted to be a nurse, even from childhood. I'm sixty-four and retired now, but I still keep my hand in here at St. Anselm's. I'm partly the Matron, dealing with minor illnesses, and I also look after the linen. It's an easy job but I've got a weak heart and I'm lucky to be working. The college make it as easy as possible for me. They've even provided a lightweight trolley so that I'm not tempted to carry heavy bundles of linen. I ought to have said all this before. And I haven't even written down my name. It's Munroe, Margaret Munroe.

I think I know why Father Martin suggested it would be helpful if I began writing again. He knows that I used to write a long letter to Charlie every week. I think he's the only person here except Ruby Pilbeam who does know that. Every week I'd sit down and remember what had happened since the last letter, the small unimportant things which wouldn't be unimportant to Charlie: the meals I ate, the jokes I heard, stories about the students, descriptions of the weather. You wouldn't think there would be much to tell in a quiet place like this on the edge of the cliffs, remote from anywhere, but it was surprising what I found to write to him. And I know Charlie loved the letters. "Keep on writing, Mum," he would say when he was home on leave. And I did.

Excerpted from Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James Copyright 2001 by P. D. James chapter 1. 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.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Do Not Become Alarmed
    Do Not Become Alarmed
    by Maile Meloy
    Full disclosure: I've never had any desire to go on a cruise. I start getting antsy and ...
  • Book Jacket: Priestdaddy
    Priestdaddy
    by Patricia Lockwood
    Patricia Lockwood is a poet and the daughter of Greg Lockwood, a Catholic priest. While Catholic ...
  • Book Jacket: Before We Sleep
    Before We Sleep
    by Jeffrey Lent
    Katey Snow, aged seventeen, leaves home one night. "There was a void within her and one that could ...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Essex Serpent
    by Sarah Perry

    Costa Book Award Finalist and the Waterstones (UK) Book of the Year 2016
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.