2007: 48. A Mind to Murder

“Dr. Paul Steiner, consulting psychiatrist at the Steen Clinic, sat in the front ground floor consulting-room and listened to his patient’s highly rationalized explanation of the failure of his third marriage.”

A Mind to Murder, P.D. James

This is one of James’ first novels.  How early is it? Well, it’s set in a psychiatric clinic, and one of the therapies that the clinic offers is LSD treatment.  Early, is what I’m saying.  It’s ok - the solution to the murder is somewhat pedestrian, compared to some of the later books, but she does a nice bit of misdirection at the beginning, which keeps the reader from guessing the answer until the end, and there are sufficient interesting red herrings to keep it interesting.  There is one additional crime committed near the end that seems superfluous to me, but all in all a solid mystery.

One thing that becomes abundantly clear when reading James is how familiar she is with the working of British bureaucracy.  She was a civil servant* before she was a novelist, and many of her novels are set in bureaucratic systems - hospitals, courts, schools.  She captures the workings of systems in ways that make the settings almost be a character in the novels, and makes you feel like these things really happened in these real places.  

Another thing I noticed, completely unrelated to that point, is that a lot of the books contain beautiful old buildings inexpertly cut up into offices. I don’t know if that speaks to James’ personal architectural preferences, or the state of British buildings, but it caught my eye.


Recommended for:  Mystery fans; people interested in 1960’s psychiatry in Britain.


Date/Place Completed:  4/9/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Re-Read; PD James Project 


*It always sounds so colorless and damning to say that someone is a civil servant, doesn’t it? In fact, I have recently become a civil servant (well a government employee), and love it, so take my comment in that spirit!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017