Summary and book reviews of Death In Holy Orders by P.D. James

Death In Holy Orders

by P.D. James

Death In Holy Orders
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2001, 416 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2002, 416 pages

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Book Summary

Dalgliesh agrees to investigate a death at a theological college. No sooner does he arrive than the college is torn apart by a sacrilegious and horrifying murder, and Dalgliesh finds himself drawn into the labyrinth of an intricate and violent mystery.

The setting itself is elemental P. D. James: the bleak coast of East Anglia, where atop a sweep of low cliffs stands the small theological college of St. Anselm’s. On the shore not far away, smothered beneath a fall of sand, lies the body of one of the school’s young ordinands. He is the son of Sir Alred Treves, a hugely successful and flamboyant businessman who is accustomed to getting what he wants—and in this case what he wants is Commander Adam Dalgliesh to investigate his son’s death. Although there seems to be little to investigate, Dalgliesh agrees, largely out of nostalgia for several happy summers he spent at St. Anselm’s as a boy. No sooner does he arrive, however, than the college is torn apart by a sacrilegious and horrifying murder, and Dalgliesh finds himself ineluctably drawn into the labyrinth of an intricate and violent mystery.

Here P. D. James once more demonstrates her unrivalled skill in building a classic detective story into a fully realized novel, gripping as much for its psychological and emotional richness as for the originality and complexity of its plotting—and, of course, for the horror and suspense at its heart. Filled with unforgettable characters, brilliant in its evocation of the East Anglian scene and the religious background against which the action takes place, Death in Holy Orders again offers proof, if proof were needed, that P. D. James is not only the reigning master of the crime novel but also, simply, one of the finest novelists writing today.

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 ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Library Journal

Back after a four-year hiatus, Adam Dalgliesh is drawn to investigate the death of a young ordinand at a cliff-side theological college.

Kirkus Reviews

[E]xcept for an uncharacteristically dewy-eyed portrait of a Cambridge don, each suspect and subplot is handled with all the penetration you'd expect in an apotheosis of the triple-decker whodunit.

Reader Reviews

J. Dean

P. D. James always delivers -- hers is a prose style that I personally like. She uses our English language at its optimum level.
The plot is ingenious, interlaced with questions that concern us all.
Religion is most unpopular today -- especially ...   Read More

dory

i love this book i just cant put it down and when im finished i go back and read more of it!!


Stanley

'Death in Holy Orders' ended my virgin state regarding reading this author. She made me angry for all the right reasons. I was reading her in bed and every time that I resolved to get up and face the day, another twist in the plot delayed my ...   Read More

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