2007: 47. The Black Tower

“It was to be the consultant physician’s last visit, and Dagliesh suspected that neither of them regretted it, arrogance and patronage on one side and weakness, gratitude and dependence on the other being no foundation for a satisfactory adult relationship, however transitory.”

The Black Tower, P.D. James

Sometimes James’ work seems a little repetitive - this book reminds me a great deal of her book Death in Holy Orders, since both concern deaths in isolated closed communities on the coast.  Here its a home for the disabled, there a seminary, but since the first death here is a priest, the difference doesn’t seem that great.  The book starts with Dagliesh learning that he does not have a terminal disease (as he had been told), just a serious virus.  He receives a letter from an old friend, his father’s old curate, and decides to visit him while he recovers his strength.  However, when he arrives, his friend has died.  Seemingly of a heart attack, but a second and third death follow, and soon Dagliesh, who had considered giving up detection, is wrapped up in a murder investigation. 

The book is excellent in its description of the strange home for the disabled, run by a zealot who thinks that he was cured of MS on a trip to Lourdes.  The characters are realistically drawn, and James excellent captures how sad and dark the lives can be of people who are placed in a home and then forgotten by the people they love.  The solution to the mystery is not so satisfying, and like too many other of her books, Dagliesh ends up getting attacked and still manages to save the day - he’s just a detective, not Superman.  Still, its a pretty good mystery, if not a perfect novel.


Recommend for: Mystery readers; James lovers.  Not so much for regular readers who don’t already like mysteries, unless you have a penchant for reading about sad people who are deserted by their families, and if so, this is the book for you.


Date/Place Completed: 4/7/07; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction; Re-Read; PD James Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017