2007: 50. Shroud for a Nightingale 

“On the morning of the first murder Miss Muriel Beale, Inspector of Nurse Training Schools to the General Nursing Council, stirred into wakefulness soon after 6 o’clock and into a sluggish early morning awareness that it was Monday, 12th January, and the day of the John Carpenter Hospital Inspection.”

Shroud for a Nightingale, P.D. James

One of the problems of writing a series of books over a great period of time is the question of how to age your protagonist.  If your books are successful, you don’t want to change up your formula and age your characters too rapidly.  On the other hand, if you don’t age them normally, people who go back and read the series can have a bit of whiplash.  That is what happened to me here (exacerbated, no doubt, by the fact that I am reading these books in no particular order).  This is one of the earliest Dagliesh novels and (SPOILER ALERT, the solution to the mystery relates to what a character in his/her mid-forties had been doing during the Second World War).  Not too odd - except the most recent novels have Dagliesh at most in his early sixties (and probably younger), and for that to work, he would have to have been twenty when this book was taking place - which he clearly is not.  Not a crucial error, just a funny thought.

This mystery takes place in a nursing hospital.  Talk about how society has changed, particularly in the bits where the characters bemoan the loss of good nurses to marriage, and wonder why they even bothered to get trained! The murder in this one is particularly ghastly - a student nurse is poisoned in front of everyone during a demonstration on tube feeding where someone put poison in the tube.  One thing that is nice, despite the dated quality is that James handles a lesbian subplot with a nice bit of subtlety and lack of hand-wringing that I suspect was quite gracious for 1976.

Recommended for:  Nurses, who want to see how times have changed; mystery readers (not just the James lovers, this one is pretty good)


Date/Place Completed: 4/15/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Re-Read; PD James Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017