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P D James has become famous for her traditional take on murders which takes place in areas where only a few people are involved, following in a much similar line to the great sleuth writer Agatha Christie. This book is no exception.
The Hero, a certain Commander Dalgliesh.
The Place, Combe Island.
The people trapped on the Island with only one way off and now that too is closed off because of course there has been a murder most foul.
Combe Island has become a retreat, a place of seclusion, a hideout for the rich, famous and slightly suspicious and those in the public eye that really would rather not be. These include an overbearing writer and his daughter and copy editor, the head of a laboratory that does tests on animals, also a senior diplomat.
Combe Island is off the Cornish coast is a privately-owned retreat offering respite to people in stressful jobs but they are only allowed to stay if they were either born there or related to someone that was. They are guaranteed privacy and complete security.
Dalgliesh and his team, a very able Kate Miskin and Benton-Smith, are called in to solve the crime. Mainly to calm down the rising hubbub that is increasing due to other matters from higher up in the chain of command.
On arrival on the Island via helicopter, Dalgliesh and co. are immediately aware of tension on the island. This is due to bad feeling, which developed on the previous night during luncheon, as there now seems there are a great many people with a reason to kill the writer. These include his daughter, the laboratory head and a bullied servant. Can Dalgliesh and his team solve the murder before the killer strikes again?
The murder itself is debatable at first as the Writer is found dangling from a rope from the Lighthouse hence the title of the book. Then it comes to light that all is not quite that simple and murder is most definitely on the cards.
This makes us look at all the different characters in the book, the daughter and her sudden announcement that she is to marry the Writer's co editor. (Not a match her father encouraged). The woman ensconced in the cottage which the Writer wants, (The cottage not the woman), could she have had help committing such a crime.
The Animal Laboratory Head who had a deep and dark history with said victim.
Was he to blame for the death?
Then there is the official diplomat, could he be the killer after all he is the reason why they are all, including Dalgliesh involved in the first place as they are placed on the island to try and calm things down and get to the bottom of things before it all blows up and also to keep it out of the local press.
Also certain members of staff have a history with the writer where do their stories lie in this deep and convoluted plot.
She's also cleverly introduced graphic detail of experimentation on animals and No map of the island is supplied but geographic images were easily conjured up in my own imagination to work out the layout with her very thorough description of the island you could almost see it and smell the sea as if you were there yourself, and she was adept at this giving you a good idea of the bleakness of the terrain. Virus infections like SARS which Dalgliesh developed when he was in contact with one of the suspects that had it.
Kate Miskin is allowed to take over the unwelcome task of finding the killer to find yet another murder taking place right under their noses and she and the sergeant have the unwanted task of sorting through all the evidence such as it is to find the killer. Just as they arrive at a conclusion so does Dalgliesh in his sick bed.
It is a bit hard to swallow in places and quite frankly I am surprised when they find the culprit as it is not who I was sure it would be so I suppose that was a bit unpredictable.
All this as well as the fact that Kate apparently is supposed to be in love with him, forgetting of course about her involvement with someone else, also that he has a love interest back home as well. All a bit cheesy or is it just me that thinks the whole thing seem a bit lame.
I generally liked the way the characters were built up and they were believable and well quite frankly I was shocked to find that anyone of them could have done it and even more when the person or persons I thought had, had absolutely nothing to do with it and I was so convinced that they had. So in that respect I take my hat off if I had one to P.D.James. A really well written plot and set of characters I just found the whole thing a little laboured and enjoyment of the book is diminished because of this. I did not find myself wanting to read other's in her vast retinue of books as I really did not enjoy this one that much but I will try maybe just one more if anyone has a particular favourite that they think I would enjoy.
The Lighthouse is for me not P.D.James best work, but being quite new to her writing I feel maybe I didn't have much else to go on except that I found it boring and nearly nodded off several times while reading it which is a shame as it had a lot more potential.
The first Dalgliesh novel was written in 1962 and we watch him rise through the ranks to Commander Chief Inspector. I for one watched a lot of Dalgliesh on the T.V. Finding this a much better medium and infinitely more acceptable way of getting to grips with P.D.James's work.
Interesting facts on
P. D. James she is an English crime writer and a life peer in the House of Lords.
Born 3 August 1920 (age 92)
Genres Crime fiction
Ive had this book for a year now and for one reason or another, have only just got around to reading it. I do enjoy P D James books and have done for years, so that is not really why I left it for so long, its just that as the series has gone on, Ive come to dislike the hero, Commander Dagleish more and more and this tends to colour my opinion of the books. Anyway, finally I read it, and as expected, thoroughly enjoyed it, despite Dagleishs appearance. P D James has become famous for her traditional closed door murders, where the murder takes place in a restricted area to which a certain number of people only have access. This book is no exception and I, for one, am overjoyed.
Combe Island has become a retreat for many of those in the public eye. A well-known writer and his entourage, the head of a laboratory that does tests on animals. and a senior diplomat are three of the main guests on the island at the time. Most of the other people on the island are either administrative people or servants. That is, until the writer is found murdered. A potential visit by a high profile politician rings warning bells in Whitehall; hence Dagleish and his team, Kate Miskin and Benton-Smith, are called in to solve the crime.
On arrival, Dagleish and co are immediately aware of tension on the island. Living in such close proximity has not led to good relations and there is any number of people with a reason to kill the writer, including his own daughter, the laboratory head and a bullied servant. The situation is made more complicated by an outbreak of SARS, which restricts the actions of both the inhabitants and the police. Can Dagleish and his team solve the murder before the killer strikes again?
Although Dagleish's involvement in this crime is explained by a potential visitor, hinted at being the Prime Minister, I still find it hard to accept that a Commander in the Metropolitan Police would be involved in such an investigation. He might be constantly at the end of a phone, but actually there in person? I don't think so. I have never particularly liked Dagleish - he is a very private character with a love of poetry and there is little to get to like - but I really feel we've seen enough of him now. He does have a love interest in Emma, although as far as the novel is concerned, it is a long distance relationship, but even this doesn't liven him up - somehow I see him as almost asexual. Luckily, I think P D James, if she does get to write many more books, is slowly beginning to write Dagleish off - or at least let him sink into the background. Kate Miskin has begun to play a more prominent role in investigations over the last couple of books and although she is quite a prickly character, I do feel myself warming to her. In this book, her relationship with her former partner has developed into something further now that they are no longer working together, which gives her more of a human side. I also like the development of her relationship with Benton-Smith.
Perhaps I am being rather harsh on Dagleish but he just annoys me. On the plus side, I think this proves that P D James can put together a very good story, because my dislike of Dagleish has never discouraged me from reading any of her books and I've read every single last one of them. A couple of books ago, when she wrote Death in Holy Orders, I did wonder if she was losing her touch. The Murder Room was a definite improvement though, and I was delighted to find that she was well on form in this book. I am a great fan of the traditional murder mystery - the 'closed door' mystery and this is a perfect example. In this day and age, it is difficult to envisage many situations whereby the murderer must be one of a small number of people - telecommunications and transport links tend to get in the way of that - but setting it on a secluded island where the inhabitants deliberately avoid modern life is an excellent idea and just about manages to keep within the realms of possibility. P D James has also done a good job of making all the suspects seem like they could possibly have committed murder without making any of them stand out too much.
I like the way that P D James (or should I say Baroness James of Holland Park) writes. She almost turns crime fiction into an art form; many authors of modern crime fiction seem to forget that they can come up with a good plot and write well all at the same time. She does occasionally make her language a bit more complicated than is really necessary; I found myself having to really concentrate sometimes in order to understand what she was saying. That is an infrequent occurence though, so not really a big deal.
I liked The Lighthouse. I think this is P D James' best book for a while and I say this despite Dagleish. I don't know if she will manage many more - she is already well over 80 - but if she doesn't, then this is a good one to finish on. Recommended.
The Lighthouse is available from play.com for £4.99. Published by Penguin Books, it has 480 pages. ISBN: 0141025107
Combe Island, off the Cornish coast is a privately-owned retreat offering respite to people in stressful jobs. They are guaranteed privacy and complete security. Some residents are pleasanter than others and when one dies in suspicious circumstances Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to investigate.
Its just over a year since I read the last P D James novel, The Murder Room, and I hoped that there would not be a sequel. I felt that Baroness James, in her eighties, was no longer up to producing good crime fiction. Whilst The Lighthouse isnt up to the standard of her best work for me that was Devices and Desires I think that her latest novel is a considerable improvement on either The Murder Room or its immediate predecessor, Death in Holy Orders.
The first Dalgliesh novel was written in 1962 and our hero was already a Chief Inspector. Since then hes been enormously successful and appears to have solved every crime hes encountered. Naturally hes risen through the ranks and is now a Commander at New Scotland Yard. In the real world police officers of such seniority dont fly across the country to investigate a suspicious death which could equally well have been taken on by the local constabulary. To get round this knotty point we are told that there is to be an event of some political significance on the island in a matter of months and its essential that the death is cleared up with the minimum of fuss. Its a little far-fetched and the reader has to suspend disbelief on this point.
Over the years P D James has become particularly inventive at creating situations where a murderer must be one of a limited number of people. This one is perhaps less-tightly drawn than most. People who are used to living with protection officers about them do not suddenly change to living alone, leaving doors and windows unlocked, simply because they are on an island. Boats do manage to enter harbours without anyone noticing. Once again there needs to be some suspension of disbelief.
Baroness James is good at evoking place. No map of the island is supplied but I had the geographical details in my mind very quickly along with an idea of the bleakness of the terrain. There are some interesting background notes on structures such as the lighthouse and the main house which provide atmosphere and are less indulgent than some similar passages in her recent books. Shes also successfully introduced some topics of current interest such experimentation on animals and transmission of virus infections, which give a more up-to-date feel than was apparent in her last two books. She still hasnt really come to terms with mobile phones though.
If shes good with time and place I think the touch is less sure with character. Even after all these years Dalgliesh is still a shadowy, limp lettuce of a man. Hes a brain and nothing else. His Inspector, Kate Miskin is supposed to be in love with him but involved with someone else. I had no feeling of sexual chemistry between any of them. There is more sexual content than in most of P D James books, but nothing that would make your maiden aunt blush. There is obviously violence, given that theres murder, but its reported after the fact and with only the necessary descriptions.
The characterisation of the suspects is better. I found no problem in establishing in my own mind who was who and they all had sufficient background to save them from being caricatures. A good case could be made out for several of the suspects to be the villain of the piece, but I was taken by surprise by the ending. The plot is superb once you accept that the murderer is one of a limited number of people. It moves on at a sharp pace with some surprising twists.
If I have one reservation about this book its that Baroness James writing style doesnt always lend itself to easy reading. Occasionally I had to read a sentence twice to make certain that I had the meaning correctly. Add to this the occasional piece of sloppy proof reading and enjoyment of the book is diminished. I did find myself wondering if thered be a sequel though!
The books recommended.
Hardcover 323 pages (October 10, 2005)
Publisher: Faber & Faber Ltd
Price: £17.99 but available on Amazon for £10.79 in November 2005
Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered. Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves, Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems and the ambitious Anglo-Indian Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly have the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects than there is a second brutal killing, and the whole investigation is jeopardised when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder. This eagerly awaited successor to The Murder Room displays the qualities which aficionados have come to expect of P. D. James: sensitive characterisation, an exciting and superbly structured plot and vivid evocation of place.