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The Private Patient by PD James


The Private Patient by PD James

Many readers missed the latest P.D. James novel, The Private Patient, published last October. By December it had sold out – and was not reprinted. Happily the paperback is now available and we can all catch up on the life and career of Commander Adam Dalgleish.

This book follows The Lighthouse, which left Dalgliesh newly engaged to Emma Lavenham. The engagement is still on but Commander Dalgliesh struggles to decide if he should remain in the police force after his marriage.

Although we read about his very personal thoughts, not only about the current case but also about his personal life I never find myself referring him as Adam – I was brought up never to call anyone with whom I have only a professional relationship, or anyone older than myself, by their first name. And although we do not really know how old Commander Dalgliesh is, I would not presume to call him Adam – he remains Commander Dalgliesh no matter how long I have known him.

As usual when Commander Dalgliesh is on a case he is completely involved in the case, and his personal life is put aside – hardly the way to make a successful marriage – and he knows this.

We know on the first page that Rhoda Gradwyn will be the murder victim – it is just the how, why, when – and who the murderer is. Rhoda Gradwyn was an investigative journalist – there seems to be many who would want revenge. We actually do not know much about her, nor do the possible suspects. Rhoda Gradwyn is murdered while recuperating at an exclusive private clinic after cosmetic surgery to remove a scar “because I no longer have need of it”.

Along with Commander Dalgliesh on this case are, once again, Inspector Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith. It is like meeting old friends for the reader to be with these two again. Kate, loving her job and her London flat, is again alone after ending a relationship that she thought was the one that would last. Benton is now happily living away from home, enjoying a casual relationship and visits with his parents. Neither is sorry to be called away on a complicated murder investigation.

The English manor house is the perfect setting for a murder mystery, what with all the staff and residents and hangers-on as suspects. In this case it seems that they all may have had a reason to murder Rhoda Gradwyn – they certainly all act guilty for one reason or another.

The detectives chase down the clues – discovering secrets that simply provide more possible motives for murder. It becomes increasingly clear to Commander Dalgliesh that he is unavailable to Emma at a time when she needs his support – and it does feel that he might consider leaving his career. He is after all a wealthy man, but can he really be happy without the challenge of the cases he is assigned to solve?

I guess we’ll find out in the next few years. Dame P.D. James is 88 years of age but still seems to be going strong. Even if Commander Dalgleish wants to retire I’d be surprised if P.D. James would let him do so – or perhaps she’ll have him living quietly in retirement and have him called back, or involved in a personal case – one way or the other I expect we can look forward to reading about Dalgliesh again in a year or two.

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