New Mystery by P.D. James – The Private Patient

I love mysteries in the English Detective genre – can’t get enough of them. The best ones are written by P.D. James (Adam Dalgliesh mysteries). I read my first one 25 years ago (The Black Tower), then read the four earlier ones and then each new one as it was published.

In 2000 P.D. James turned 80 and published her autobiography “Time to be in Earnest”. Since then she has published three more books and now this most recent one. Her 14th book in the Adam Dalgliesh series was published in November – The Private Patient.

We mystery lovers are blessed because P.D. James has chosen to keep writing. I just downloaded this one to read on my Kindle. I will probably let it sit there waiting for a few weeks until I have a calmer time to read it.

P.D. James was my introduction to this type of mystery. After I got caught up with her mysteries, I read all of Dorothy Sayers, who wrote before P.D. James, then went on to find others – Elizabeth George, Deborah Crombie, Peter Robinson, Peter Lovesey, and others that I can’t remember now. I like mysteries set in contemporary times, so avoided Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

When we were living in England in 1988, Steve and I followed the route that Dalgliesh took in P.D. James’ third book “Unnatural Causes” as he drove from London to the Suffolk Coast (the drive starts in Chapter Two). We started in Essex (where we were renting a cottage) and “joined” Dalgliesh as he crossed into Suffolk. We stopped at the Blythburgh Church where Dalgliesh sat and pondered his current relationship (did he want to get married?). Then we left and drove to the Suffolk coast. The coastal village Monksmere, where the mystery takes place, did not exist. That book was published in 1967. We followed the route 20 years later and now another 20 years on I am remembering that day.

“Just before two o’clock on the afternoon of the same day Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh drove his Cooper Bristol gently on to the grass verge outside Blythburgh Church and, a minute later, passed through the north chantry-chapel door into the cold silvery whiteness of one of the loveliest church interiors in Suffolk.”
– Unnatural Causes, P.D. James

The two photos on this post are from that 1988 trip. The first one is the church in that Suffolk village. I remember the Seven Deadly Sins carved into the ends of the benches and always thought they were mentioned in the book, but reading Chapter Two I find she said very little about the church.

Church in Suffolk
Church in Suffolk

But what I remember clearly from that day is the cat waiting at the Fish and Chips van outside the church. It looked like he was in line to place his order. The photo shows Steve, a major cat lover, trying to get the cat’s attention (unsuccessfully). It is funny the small things that you remember from a trip, isn’t it?

Fish and Chip Van
Cat at Fish and Chip Van

Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries

Cover Her Face, 1962
A Mind to Murder, 1963
Unnatural Causes, 1967
Shroud for a Nightingale, 1971
The Black Tower, 1975
Death of an Expert Witness, 1977
A Taste for Death, 1986
Devices and Desires, 1989
Original Sin, 1995
A Certain Justice 1997
Death in Holy Orders, 2001
The Murder Room, 2004
The Lighthouse, 2006
The Private Patient, 2008

Cordelia Grey Mysteries

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, 1972
Skull Beneath the Skin, 1982


Wikipedia – P.D. James
Random House – P.D. James
Google Book Search – Unnatural Causes
Blythburgh Church – Most Holy Trinity, Blythburgh, Suffolk

Note: I spent half and hour figuring out the list of P.D. James Dalgleish novels and publication dates, only to find after the Wikipedia page listing the information. Note to self, first check Wikipedia! And this is cool, I wanted to find the name of the Suffolk village we visited and I found the complete text of “Unnatural Causes” on the Google Book Reader!!

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.