The Murder Room

Commander Adam Dalgliesh, P. D. James’s formidable and fascinating detective, returns to find himself enmeshed in a terrifying story of passion and mystery – and in love.

The Dupayne, a small private museum in London devoted to the interwar years 1919 – 1939, is in turmoil. As its trustees argue over whether it should be closed, one of them is brutally and mysteriously murdered. Yet even as Commander Dalgliesh and his team proceed with their investigation, a second corpse is discovered. Someone in the Dupayne is prepared to kill and kill again. Still more sinister, the murders appear to echo the notorious crimes of the past featured in one of the museum’s galleries: the Murder Room.

The case is fraught with danger and complications from the outset, but for Dalgliesh the complications are unexpectedly profound. His new relationship with Emma Lavenham – introduced in the last Dalgliesh novel, Death in Holy Orders – is at a critical stage. Now, as he moves closer and closer to a solution to the puzzle, he finds himself driven further and further from commitment to the woman he loves.

The Murder Room is a powerful work of mystery and psychological intricacy from a master of the modern novel.

“You can’t possibly know him.”

“I can know enough,” Emma said. “I can’t know everything, no one can. Loving him doesn’t give me the right to walk in and out of his mind as if it were my room at college. He’s the most private person I’ve ever met. But I know the things about him that matter.”

But did she? Emma asked herself. Adam Dalgleish was intimate with those dark crevices of the human mind where horrors lurked which she couldn’t begin to comprehend. Not even that appalling scene in the church at St. Anselm’s had shown her the worst that human beings could do to each other. She knew about those horrors from literature; he explored them daily in his work. Sometimes, waking from sleep in the early hours, the vision she had of him was of the dark face masked, the hands smooth and impersonal in the sleek latex gloves. What hadn’t those hands touched? She rehearsed the questions she wondered if she would ever be able to ask. Why do you do it? Is it necessary to your poetry? Why did you choose this job? Or did it choose you?
– from
The Murder Room


From the Hardcover edition.

Reviews

[A] superbly realized setting. … The plot unfolds at its Jamesian leisure; the rich, almost posh quality of its slow unveiling allows for sharp sketches of character and place…. [James] ought never to be confused with such practitioners of the murder-in-the-vicarage genre as Agatha Christie. She is subtler, more sophisticated, much more adept at creating character, and her social conservatism gives her a much darker view of human nature.”
—Martin Levin, The Globe and Mail

“[T]he premise is delicious.”
Telegraph (UK)

The Murder Room is a brilliantly crafted novel, brimming with detail and rich in suspense; a further testament to James’s skills in both.”
Waterstone’s Books Quarterly (UK)

“If crime fiction were classical music, P. D. James’s books would be filed under Grand Opera. In a sense, James is the last of the great Golden Age crime writers. She has an instinctive grasp of narrative: despite the leisurely prose, the shocks are beautifully handled. The plot purrs along like a well-designed and well-maintained engine. James writes with rare authority about the civil service, the police and the justice system. She also does an exceptionally good corpse — she never cheapens the physical appearance of death, but describes it with both respect and clinical attention to detail.”
The Independent (UK)

“James’s eye for architecture and nature is rare in most genres of the novel now, and this skill for physical description – along with her psychological acuity.”
The Guardian (UK)


From the Hardcover edition.