This police procedural is the forteenth in the Adam Dalgliesh series. I bought the book myself.
My bait quotation has given you some kind of insight in the bleak childhood of Rhoda Gradwyn, the victim of the novel. The incident leaves her with an ugly, facial scar, and perhaps it has also left a lasting stamp on her personality: “Probing into other people´s secrets became a lifelong obsession, the substratum and direction of her whole career.”
Rhoda Gradwyn is excellent at probing and has a splendid career as a journalist, but one suspects the quotation is more sinister than that. When the plot begins, she has finally decided to have her scar removed with the following explanation to the surgeon “because I no longer have need of it.” A very private person who no longer feels she needs a disfigurement to keep people at a distance?
She chooses one of England´s best plastic surgeons, giving her an opportunity to stay at his private Dorset clinic, Cheverell Manor. The operation is a success, but before she has a chance to recover and enjoy her new face, Rhoda is murdered, and everybody connected with the small private clinic in Dorset turns into a suspect. Deftly, P.D. James portrays the staff from the successful surgeon Chandler-Powell to the smallest kitchen maid, plus the Manor and the prehistoric stone circle in the vicinity. They all have secrets which must be revealed, some insignificant, others solid motives for murder, and as usual the police work is in the capable hands of Commander Adam Dalgliesh, DI Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith.
This novel is not a fast-paced thriller but a solid, British mystery written by an expert who takes her time to let the characters and the environment unfold, very successfully on the whole, though there is stil a thing or two I would have liked to know. And the language is – as always – an exquisite treat.