Summary and book reviews of The Murder Room by P.D. James

The Murder Room

by P.D. James

The Murder Room by P.D. James X
The Murder Room by P.D. James
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2003, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2004, 432 pages

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Book Summary

Commander Adam Dalgliesh returns to find himself enmeshed in a terrifying story of passion and mystery -- and in love.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh, P. D. James's formidable and fascinating detective, returns to find himself enmeshed in a terrifying story of passion and mystery -- and in love.

The Dupayne, a small private museum in London devoted to the interwar years 1919 -- 1939, is in turmoil. As its trustees argue over whether it should be closed, one of them is brutally and mysteriously murdered. Yet even as Commander Dalgliesh and his team proceed with their investigation, a second corpse is discovered. Someone in the Dupayne is prepared to kill and kill again. Still more sinister, the murders appear to echo the notorious crimes of the past featured in one of the museum's galleries: the Murder Room.

The case is fraught with danger and complications from the outset, but for Dalgliesh the complications are unexpectedly profound. His new relationship with Emma Lavenham -- introduced in the last Dalgliesh novel, Death in Holy Orders -- is at a critical stage. Now, as he moves closer and closer to a solution to the puzzle, he finds himself driven further and further from commitment to the woman he loves.

The Murder Room is a powerful work of mystery and psychological intricacy from a master of the modern novel.

The People and the Place
Friday 25 October–Friday 1 November

On Friday 25 October, exactly one week before the first body was discovered at the Dupayne Museum, Adam Dalgliesh visited the museum for the first time. The visit was fortuitous, the decision impulsive and he was later to look back on that afternoon as one of life's bizarre coincidences which, although occurring more frequently than reason would expect, never fail to surprise.

He had left the Home Office building in Queen Anne's Gate at two-thirty after a long morning meeting only briefly interrupted by the usual break for brought-in sandwiches and indifferent coffee, and was walking the short distance back to his New Scotland Yard office. He was alone; that too was fortuitous. The police representation at the meeting had been strong and Dalgliesh would normally have left with the Assistant Commissioner, but one of the Under Secretaries in the Criminal Policy Department had asked him to look in at his ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
ABOUT THIS BOOK
The privately owned Dupayne Museum, dedicated to the history of England between the world wars, is going to close unless all three trustees agree to keep it in business. When the sole dissenting trustee, psychiatrist Neville Dupayne, is found burned alive in his Jaguar in the museum’s garage, the question of the museum’s future is rather gruesomely put to rest, and a new case opens for Commander Adam Dalgliesh. The murder is uncannily similar to one described in the museum’s popular Murder Room, which preserves objects related to some of the era’s most lurid crimes. Dalgliesh and his team are burdened with a wealth of possible suspects: nearly everyone involved in the museum had reasons to want to keep ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

The Globe and Mail - Martin Levin
[A] superbly realized setting. … The plot unfolds at its Jamesian leisure; the rich, almost posh quality of its slow unveiling allows for sharp sketches of character and place…. [James] ought never to be confused with such practitioners of the murder-in-the-vicarage genre as Agatha Christie. She is subtler, more sophisticated, much more adept at creating character, and her social conservatism gives her a much darker view of human nature.

Waterstone's Books Quarterly (UK)
The Murder Room is a brilliantly crafted novel, brimming with detail and rich in suspense; a further testament to James's skills in both.

The Independent (UK)
If crime fiction were classical music, P. D. James's books would be filed under Grand Opera. In a sense, James is the last of the great Golden Age crime writers. She has an instinctive grasp of narrative despite the leisurely prose, the shocks are beautifully handled. The plot purrs along like a well-designed and well-maintained engine. James writes with rare authority about the civil service, the police and the justice system. She also does an exceptionally good corpse -- she never cheapens the physical appearance of death, but describes it with both respect and clinical attention to detail.

Telegraph (UK)
[T]he premise is delicious.

The Guardian (UK)
James's eye for architecture and nature is rare in most genres of the novel now, and this skill for physical description -- along with her psychological acuity.

Publishers Weekly
....the whodunit aspect falls short of James's best work. Hopefully, this is an isolated lapse for an author who excels at characterization and basic human psychology.

Kirkus Reviews
Despite a plot less ineluctable than her best (Death in Holy Orders, 2001, etc.), James creates another teeming world in which murder is only the symptom of a more pervasive mortality.

Booklist - Bill Ott
James, at 83, has mastered the trick of repeating herself in ever-fascinating new ways.

Winnipeg Free Press
James is a delight to read, a writer in love with the language as much as her characters and her detailed plots.… This is an exquisite book, perfect in its details.

Author Blurb Frances Fyfield
This is a grand, gothic novel of gut-wrenching suspense, satisfying at all levels. . . . Here is a novel which goes beyond mere enjoyment.

Reader Reviews

Ann

This is the first book I have read by the author. It was suspenseful and as I got more into the book I couldn't put it down. I would like to read more of her books. I can't believe that she is 83 years old. Wow that is great for a writer.

emi

great book, strong characterisation and a surprising motive for murder. but hte first 200 pages were slow moving, filled with new characters, whcih could be tohught of as essential to the uncovering of the suspects, or equally, as boring and ...   Read More

Carol P

It was much to literary for too long. The last two chapters moved along and provided interest. The rest of the book was too slow--a yawn.

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