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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Private Patient by P.D. James


P. D. James is an 88-year-old Englishwoman. That fact is very apparent in her writing as she writes in a way that just isn't found too often these days. She is very, very descriptive, almost too much, but because of that her characterizations are rich and her settings are almost visible. It makes her book seem old-fashioned but in a way that I appreciate. Too often it seems that popular fiction is written solely to make a buck and is too often plot-driven and lacking in the detail that is necessary to make a really great read. At times, however, she takes the descriptions a bit too far and seems to lose track of the story itself.
The Private Patient is about an investigative journalist who has a scar from a childhood incident. She schedules surgery at a private clinic and while recovering from the surgery is murdered. We know from the beginning that she will be a victim but it takes a hundred pages or so for it to actually occur. Much of that is spent in getting to know the victim and the possible suspects in her murder. Once the murder takes place, Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery. This is P.D. James 14th Dalgliesh mystery, the first being written in 1962. Apparently there is a BBC mini-series about Dalgliesh. I had never heard of him, or the author, which is very surprising to me because I like English novelists, mysteries, and BBC mini-series.
I enjoyed the book for the most part even though many reviews that I read said that they were disappointed in it. I was surprised then that the f-word is used 3 times. Even an 88-year-old English Baroness uses such language! I felt very let down by her. I'm not sure exactly where it occurs in the book because I was listening to it on my MP3. (A great way to get the housework done!) Other than there is very little swearing-just some minor words, some of which wouldn't be considered swearing in the United States. There is also some talk about affairs and adultery but no graphic descriptions. However, because of the f-words, I have to rate this one R. I am interested in reading some of her earlier works, as I don't think that she would have used that word back in the sixties. It just wasn't done.

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