Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Private Patient: A-

I started the new year by swiping the book I bought for my dad and reading it while he was in Great Britain for a few days. The Private Patient is by P. D. James.

The plot centers on a woman, Rhoda Gradwyn, who has chosen to undergo elective plastic surgery to repair a disfiguring facial scar. James' plots are always complex and this book is no exception. Her stories are tight, each detail is relevant.

James is a master of description. The murdered woman, Gradwyn, has a flat in the City of London. If you have ever been in the City of London on a Sunday morning, you know the silence that James describes:

She would walk out in spring or summer, as early as six o'clock, double locking the front door behind her, stepping into a silence more profound and mysterious than the absence of noise. Sometimes in this solitary perambulation it seemed that her own footsteps were muted, as if some part of her were afraid to waken the dead who had walked these streets and known the same silence.

As always in James' books, not every loose end is completely tied up, and not everyone gets a happy ending. In fact, in many of her books, no one gets a happy ending. I am glad though that she loves her sleuth, Adam Dalgliesh, enough to not leave him in a bad place. She knows that each book may be the last and she wants to end things well for him.

The Private Patient is less bloody and violent than her last two books, The Murder Room and The Lighthouse. It isn't her best; I still stand by Original Sin as her finest work, but it is so nice to relax with a writer that you trust implicitly not to do anything idiotic.


  1. Thank you for such a great review. Your words and P. D. James' have encouraged me to give this genre a try.

  2. I hope you will enjoy her work. She is one of my top three living authors.


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