25 February 2012

Review: DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS, P.D. James - audio

  • published by Chivers Audio books, available from Audible.com
  • unabridged, 9 hrs and 52 mins, 8 CDs
  • first published in 1977
  • #6 in the Inspector Dalgliesh series
  • Narrated by Michael Jayston
  • source: my local library
Synopsis

When a young girl is found strangled in a field, it looks like a routine job for the staff of the East Anglian Forensic Laboratory. But then the senior biologist is found dead in his lab and murder comes closer to home. And Commander Adam Dalgliesh faces the most baffling inquiry of his career.

Death of an Expert Witness led Newsweek to crown P. D. James "the new queen of crime."

My take

DEATH OF AN EXPERT WITNESS is the perfect illustration of what took P.D. James to the top of British crime fiction. Characters are clearly defined, plotting is convoluted but tight, motives are hidden, and red herrings abound.

There are in fact two main plot strands: the dead girl in the "clunge pit", and the murder at the forensic lab. What binds them together is that Dalgliesh and his team are investigating both, and that while the forensic lab is doing the SIO at the first, their senior biologist is killed in his lab.

This novel shares characteristics with many others in the series: Dalgliesh makes a relatively late appearance, and the perpetrator is almost the last one standing, and his/her identity comes as a surprise. Michael Jayston does an excellent job of the narration too.

My rating: 4.6

Other P.D. James reviews on MiP
THE PRIVATE PATIENT
4.5, TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION
4.7, THE SKULL BENEATH THE SKIN

6 comments:

David Harry said...

P.D. James sure know about crimes with her background in the british criminal law divisions. Great choice of book. Thanks for the review!

Bill Selnes said...

Kerrie: I enjoyed the book a few years ago. I thought of it was one of the first forensic mysteries.

Sarah said...

This is one of my favourite PD James books. I think the setting is great for a murder - atmospheric but not at all twee.

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - P.D. James is so skilled, isn't she? And yes, this is definitely a good 'un. And I'm glad you mentioned the characters; James does such a good job drawing her characters, I think.

Dorte H said...

I have read this one a couple of times, and one thing I particularly like is the voice of young Brenda. She is so enthusiastic, and her view of grumpy whatsisname really adds to our understanding of an unpopular character.

Bev Hankins said...

I do like P.D. James! Nice take on "X"--it's been a while since I've read this one (or any James, actually), but she's one of my favorites of the modern mystery writers.

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