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Death in Holy Orders
By P. D. James

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Death in Holy Orders

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Death in Holy Orders
Large Print Edition
By P.D. James
Random House Large Print, (April 2001)
ISBN: 0-375-43117-9.
Genre: Mystery

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - April 5, 2001

St. Anselm's theological college is situated on the bleak, isolated, and wind swept East Anglia coast. It is the perfect place to set a murder mystery. P. D. James make full use of this setting, treating the setting almost as another character in her newest book, Death in Holy Orders. The setting serves as an ideal backdrop to the murderous going-ons that quickly suck Commander Adam Dalgliesh into an investigation, during what should have been a quiet respite from police work.

P. D. James has a phenomenal gift with words, and she brings the full force of her skill to bear in this story. St. Anselm's is a place full of fond memories for Dalgliesh. He spent many memorable summers there as a youth and he returns with trepidation least his return ruin his fond memories. Dalgliesh and all the characters, even the most minor, are given full life with James' wit and psychological insights that enable her to flesh them out into full-bodied people.

One of the young ordinands (a student studying for the high-church Anglican priesthood), was recently found dead on the beach. The inquest returned a verdict of accidental death. However, the student, Ronald Treeves is the son of a wealthy industrialist who requests that further investigations be made into his death. As Dalgliesh was planning on vacationing in the area anyway, and as he is already familiar with St. Anslem's, he agrees to make a few discreet inquires - just to satisfy Sir Alred Treeves. Initially, there is not much for Dalgliesh to investigate at St. Anslem's, but things quickly take a turn for the worse as more deaths break the calm of this quaint religious establishment.

It has been a long time since Dalgliesh has made an appearance, but it was well worth the wait. From the very start, James grips the reader with her flowing prose, the intriguing setting, the full-bodied characters, and an almost unbelievable murder mystery that becomes all too understandable, once all the cards have been played. James, who turned eighty last year (2000), has crafted a wonderfully delightful tale that proves that, as with most things, her skills have improved with age, as has Dalgliesh's poetry.


As a side note:

The only fault I found with this story was my own ignorance of the Anglican church. St. Anslem's is a high-church establishment and a slight knowledge of the Anglican system may be helpful to avoid confusion between the Anglican High Church and Catholic traditions. You don't need this information to follow the story, but if you want to learn more about the Anglican's, I found the following links helpful:
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