I don’t know why I keep buying P.D. James, I don’t like the overall cynicism that infects her work and just how every character is either horrifically selfish or repressed. To be fair though, I can see why she has such a long career as a crime fiction writer because her crimes are well-thought out and carefully planned with no dues ex machina, it’s just my personal taste.
The characters are such a stereotype of upper-middle class British repression and entitlement. Also, they’re all deeply unlikeable (Neville was relieved when his only child moved to the other side of the world because she was no longer her problem, Caroline only values her dead brother because he was a Dupayne…)
I also don’t appreciate the incessant need to give every character a complex and flawed background. Only describe the main police, Commander Adam Dalgliesh, I don’t care for the lackeys Kate or Piers, but even then, I skimmed the romance between Adam and Emma. And you know how authors sometimes put a bit of themselves in the main character? I won’t lie, I did roll my eyes the moment she mentioned that Adam was also a sensitive and successful poet.
I also don’t like the social commentary because the cynicism permeates the whole novel. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where but you can tell that P.D. James is putting a bit of her own views into the novel; Caroline’s school is the quintessential snobby private girls school described as the
kind of place the bloody rich send their kids to in the hope of getting them out of their own hair. Both parties know what the bargain is, what the parents are paying through the nose for. See she doesn’t get pregnant, keep her off the drugs and booze and make sure she meets the right kind of men.
On the plus side, the crime was interesting and did have relevance to the time period that it was written. I like the underlying self-awareness where all the characters comment that only crazy symbolic murders happen in story books yet the killer is mimicking famous murders.
I watched this episode in class for English and I think I bought it out of sentiment. I only finished reading it due to my intense need to know who did it and why (which I grudgingly admit, did provide closure). It has P.D. James stamp all over it so if you like P.D. James, I recommend this one but overall, did not like this novel.