Cover Her Face - P.D. James

Scribd comes through.

 

I went through a period of my life maybe fifteen years ago where all I read were mysteries, mostly mysteries written by women. P.D. James, Elizabeth George, Martha Grimes figured prominently during this reading era. All three of them featured male detectives - real detectives, not amateurs - Adam Dalgleish, Tommy Lynley and Richard Jury, respectively.

 

When I signed up for my scribd trial, I noticed that all of the PD James Inspector Dalgleish books were available - although the later books are only available in audiobook. Around the same times, P.D. James also passed away, on November 27 of last year. Because of the passage of time, I felt like it might be interesting to revisit her work.

 

In addition, it has been long enough ago that I remember little to nothing about this book. I am not actually certain that I had read it before - I can't really say which of her books I've read and which I have not. I distinctly remember reading An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, which, as it turns out, is not a Dalgleish mystery - it features a different main character named Cordelia Gray. I also know that I read some of the later books, particularly The Private Patient and Original Sin. I didn't start being an obsessive series reader (needing to start at the beginning and proceed forward) until about a decade ago, so it is completely consistent with my past, significantly less OCD reading practices, that I would jump in and out of the series with nary a care for completion.

 

Those days are gone, however. I wanted to start at the beginning of the series, which is why I picked up this one.

 

This is an introductory book and Dalgleish's character is not fleshed out. It feels like a one-off, actually. One of the great things about mystery series is that each book typically stands alone as a narrative. There may be continuity within the characters, but a mystery usually has a solution, and this book meets that expectation. 

 

Another generalization: older mysteries tend to focus on the puzzle and the plot. Newer mysteries tend to focus on the characters and the psychology of the victim/murderer. This book bridges those two characteristics. It begins with elements of a locked room mystery, and the explanation is a bit convoluted, actually. Red herrings abound, and the puzzle aspect is a bit heavy-handed, in my opinion.

 

But, there is also a focus on the victim and how her behavior contributed to making her a victim. The mystery can only really be solved through a thorough understanding of the motive behind it.

 

It's solid, but was also a first effort. There were weaknesses in writing, plotting and characterization. Improvement needed.