Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh #3)

By P.D. James

Rating: 3 stars

This is an oddly meta-fictional whodunnit, with the victim being a writer of detective fiction, whose corpse is seen in the first chapter floating on a boat off the Sussex coast in exactly the same manner (and words) as a character later says she mentioned to the victim as a good opening chapter for a detective novel…

I enjoyed this novel where Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh takes a holiday to visit his aunt in a small coastal village in Sussex, and being unable to get away from his day job. It described small-town mentality rather well, and showed how different British life was, even fifty years ago, not to mention the lack of empathy shown to the disabled, with one character constantly being referred to (both in the narrative and within the story) as a cripple, for being in a wheelchair.

As usual, I completely failed to figure out whodunnit, but I don’t feel so bad this time, since a major clue was hidden until the very end.

Book details

ISBN: 9780571204106
Publisher: Penguin Books in association with Faber & Faber
Year of publication: 1967

The Children of Men

By P.D. James

Rating: 2 stars

P. D. James is better known for her crime fiction than her science fiction and while this book has an intriguing idea, I found the execution poor. Set in a future Britain in a world where no children have been born for 25 years, an historian finds himself caught up with a small band of malcontents and drawn into something much deeper.

A major problem that I had with this book was that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly sympathetic, in particular the protagonist, Theo Faron, cousin of the Warden of England. And that’s another thing, although the future Britain is nominally a dictatorship, it’s a very British dystopia, which, frankly, sounds like quite a nice place to live in, to me. The Warden promises freedom from fear, from want and from boredom. Criminals are relocated to the Isle of Man and left to their own devices and the Warden and Council keep utilities flowing as best they can and try to maintain an order of normality.

By contrast, the group of malcontents that Theo falls in with seem somewhat like whiny teenagers. And I think that’s a fault of the writing that they’re not more sympathetic when they could well have been.

It’s not often I say this, but the (very loosely adapted) film is much better.

Book details

ISBN: 9780307279903
Publisher: Vintage
Year of publication: 1992

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