Thursday, April 23, 2009

THE PRIVATE PATIENT by P.D. James (2008)

This mystery was recommended by a panel discussion on CBC radio around Christmas time as one of the best books of its kind in 2008.

P.D. James is inching towards 90 years old and she continues to write stories that are intelligent and compelling. In THE PRIVATE PATIENT, investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn makes an appointment to have a facial scar removed at an exclusive clinic in Dorset where she will be guaranteed her privacy. She's had the scar since she was a child and her drunk father sliced her cheek open with a beer bottle shard. Her mother kept her home from school for a few days and they've always insisted that the reason for the scar was that Rhoda mistakenly walked into a kitchen cupboard. Her father's recent death prompts her to make the appointment with the revered plastic surgeon George Chandler-Powell. (Why is it that so many British characters have hyphenated last names?)

Rhoda's surgery is by all accounts successful, but it doesn't matter a whit since she's found strangled to death in her room two days later. Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called by 10 Downing Street to investigate because another patient at the time awaiting her own surgery is the wife of an influential politician. While Dalgliesh and his team scour Cheverell Manor for clues, there are two other unusual deaths.

It is the humanity of Dalgliesh the resonates through the book and we are rewarded with his wedding to a worthy woman in the end.

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