Friday, December 29, 2006

If you can slip a tablet into someone's coffee, then it avoids an awful lot of mess

I had never read any P.D. James before so I started with her first novel, Cover Her Face. I was in the mood for a cozy murder in an English country house. I had pretty much decided beforehand that I was going to enjoy this one. And I did enjoy it.

But in the aftermath of having enjoyed it, I am full of criticisms.

  1. Why on Earth did Stephen Maxie propose marriage to the housemaid Sally Jupp? He told the police, "I was sorry for her, I admired her and I was attracted by her. I have no idea what she thought about me." Elsewhere he said, "I admired her and I wanted to go to bed with her. I suppose you wouldn't call that love."

    Let the record show that Stephen Maxie is known to have had previous casual affairs, and he knew Sally Jupp was an unmarried mother. He had no reason to think that marriage was a necessary prerequisite to have sex with her, and he does not seem to have had any other motive to propose to this woman whom he hardly knew.

    He knew that the engagement would mean emotional distress and perhaps economic hardship for his mother and sister. Did he then care nothing for them? No, he was very loyal to his family.

    So the proposal seems a psychological mystery at the heart of the murder which Adam Dalgliesh has done nothing to explain.

  2. Felix Hearne thought, "Adam Dalgliesh, I've heard of him. Ruthless, unorthodox, working always against time. I suppose he has his own private compulsions. At least they've thought us adversaries worthy of the best." Ridiculous. Why would a book publisher know who was the best Detective Chief-Inspector at Scotland Yard? Speaking for myself, I couldn't even name the local chief of police, although I do know the chief of police of the nearest large city.

  3. I thought I had a third item here, which was that two of the witnesses' accounts were inconsistent (and Adam Dalgliesh didn't remark on this inconsistency). But on review, I see that the "inconsistency" is really too tiny to be worthy of comment.


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