About 10 years ago, I picked up a copy of Original Sin at a used booksale because I liked the cover art. Despite schlepping it through about 10 moves, I never actually cracked the cover. Imagine my surprise, and rueful chagrin, when I discovered I really like P.D. James. Of course, I can no longer find my copy so I had to get one from the library. The moral of the story? Judge your books by their covers.
One of the Boucheron authors at the murder mystery night made a comment of “Well, I am certainly no P.D. James.” I can’t remember who he was (sorry dude), but I ran out and got a couple of James’ books. And they are excellent.
About halfway through the second book of James’ that I had picked up, I realized what makes her books so very engrossing. Far, far too many of the modern murder writers pad their books with extraneous characters and events to add depth and a faux emotion to the plot. The domineering mother-in-law, creepy ex-husband or snotty teenager are thrown in to raise the heat of ire. But, these irritating bit players having nothing to do with the murder, nor do they advance the solution in any way. In real life, any one of these people would be dealt with a sharp word, cold shoulder or a firm slap. Yet, so many female murder writers continue padding out their books with these people. Stripped of them, they have only 50 pages of weak plot with an iffy conclusion. Shame, shame ladies.
James’ books are cool, clear, strong and logical. Her Commander Adam Dalgliesh is at the top of the British Police Force, and as such, has the most fascinating of cases. Often locked door style mysteries, they are highly complex, loop-hole free and satisfying long. While James’ does offer a goodly amount of personal information on Dalgliesh and his assistants, this is not the main point of the book. These are simply details to make their interest in their work and methodology clear. Once I found who dunnit in Original Sin, I found myself desperately wanting the book to continue indefinitely so I could see what the rest dun, and to who.