2008: 119. The Lighthouse

“Commander Adam Dagliesh was not unused to be urgently summoned to non-scheduled meetings with unspecified people at inconvenient times, but usually with one purpose in common: he could be confident that somewhere there lay a dead body awaiting his attention.”

The Lighthouse, P.D. James

This is the newest James mystery, once again featuring her detective-poet Adam Dagliesh.*  It is set on a government-owned exclusive island** where the powerful and important (i.e., those who are so powerful that they need to vacation somewhere where no one can bother them and they can be pampered in peace).  It was a little disconcerting to read in that it calls back one of her earlier books, The Skull Beneath the Skin, which also takes place on an exclusive island for rich people, and I kept flashing back to that when I was reading it.  However, I give James credit, because even while I was reminded of her earlier work, this work stood alone, and the mystery was unique***.  It involves a famous writer - one who was actually born on the island, and thus is allowed to come visit whenever he likes (this is due to the terms of the will which left the island to the country).  He is universally disliked, and, surprise, he ends up murdered.  The island is just another version of a locked room mystery - the suspects are limited, and the atmosphere brooding, and I enjoyed this a great bit - much more than her latest few books, which had turned on “scandalous” sex issues which I found a little dated.  In face, my only disappointment was at the very end.  This is sort of a SPOILER, but at the end, when Adam finds love, it seems that James wants us to believe that his loyal Sergeant, Kate Miskin has been in love with him this whole time. I’m not sure I buy it based on her past characterization - I always felt she worshiped him/thought of him like a father figure (since she had none of her own), but not romantic love.  It left a sour note in my mouth, though I guess they are her characters and she knows best...

*Rumors are maybe her last, at least about him - which would make some sense, given that there is quite a bit of plot here (i.e., after years of being a moony loner, Adam finds love!). Also, (harsh but fair) James is pretty old - how many more novels does she have in her? 

** I know, it is a totally implausible premise, but I decided to go with willing suspension of disbelief and the vague idea that they “do things different in England”

***Well, vis-a-vis her earlier book. Now that I think about it, I just read an Elizabeth George (that was written first) that had a very similar plot. 


Date/Place Completed: 8/3/08; Flying from D.C. to Boston

Categories: Fiction, P.D. James Project 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017