Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

Death In Holy Orders: P.D. James

St Anselm's is an Anglican theological college-  its buildings a mish-mash of Medieval, Tudor and High-Victorian- perched on the crumbling Suffolk cliffs- with the cold North Sea coming nearer and nearer and threatening to gobble it up.  Clearly a symbol of the Anglican Church, then.  James has had fun inventing it. I'll bet there are floor-plans and elevations pinned to the cork board in her study. Maybe someone close to her has made a model- as Dodie Smith's husband did of Cassandra Mortmain's Castle.

James is very old-fashioned. Characters use mobile phones (as little as possible) and some of them have brazen private lives, but really they exist in a simulacrum of the golden age of Dorothy L Sayers- a world in which police inspectors come armed with a knowledge of the Oxford Movement and the working classes are stalwart but risibly ignorant.  The characters are mostly well-drawn, though the chief detective, Adam Dalgleish, is virtuous and wooden. The plot is silly, with an unmemorable killer murdering a memorably unpleasant Archdeacon and various other people for reasons that make little human sense. There is the matter of a will- and everything turns on a change to the law on legitimacy. Did I say Dorothy L. Sayers? Perhaps Wilkie Collins would have been nearer the mark.
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