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Death in Holy Orders    by P. D. James order for
Death in Holy Orders
by P. D. James
Order:  USA  Can
Fawcett, 2002 (2001)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

A new book in the P. D. James series featuring London policeman Commander Adam Dagliesh (one of the best fictional British detectives) is always a real treat and this latest book is one of her best in years. The Dagliesh books frequently take place in closed societies such as a publishing house or a law firm, both settings for recent books. This technique allows for a limited number of suspects who always have interesting backgrounds and involved social and psychological interactions with each other.

This novel is set at St. Anselm's, a small theological college along the East Anglian coast. James is an exceptionally literate author whose writing may occasionally send the reader to the dictionary. She does an excellent job of depicting both the settings and characters, occasionally with even too much descriptive detail. However, Death in Holy Orders is more tightly written than some of her most recent books and, although the reader can really visualize the college and its environs, the story focuses nicely on the mystery.

Dagliesh initially arrives at St. Anselm's to investigate the death of one of the students, the adopted son of a very prominent and powerful business man. Although it has been judged an accidental death, the father insists on further investigation and Dagliesh is sent to St. Anselm's where he spent several happy summers as a teenager. St. Anselm's is struggling for its existence against the trend to consolidation of small religious colleges. Shortly after Dagliesh's arrival a key proponent of closing the college, Archdeacon Crampton, is brutally murdered in St. Anselm's Church.

Dagliesh's investigative team, including the always interesting Inspector Kate Miskin, is summoned to help solve the mystery. Subsequent suspicious deaths occur as James takes the reader to a very satisfying conclusion (with even the possibility of a future romance for Dagliesh). P.D. James is now eighty years old, but I hope that there will continue to be many more Dagliesh books in her future.

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