Why I read it: I picked this book up because I wanted a straightforward mystery novel. I wanted to have suspects, clues, and ultimately a showdown where we point to all the evidence that we should have caught along the way. I also wanted to toy with the concept of the narrator knowing something I don’t know, and not revealing it to me (an innocuous version of the unreliable narrator).
I enjoy writing stories with twists. My hope was to take out of this the ability to lay strong hints without being too obvious in the reveal, a property that is essential for a good mystery. Mysteries by their nature have something of a twist (otherwise the reader doesn’t gain the satisfaction at the end of figuring out the murderer).
What I got out of this book: The clues were good, but I also saw how “okay” it is to have content not directly pushing the story along. For instance, we read about the hard upbringing of one of the members of the squad. I expected this to come out as a major issue between characters, but it never did. There were more, although I’ll refrain from mentioning so I don’t break any suspense.
What I won’t do because of this book: In general, I thought the book was pretty good. I guess I’d probably say that I won’t take so long to get to the actual plot.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Murder Room is my first trip with P. D. James, and my first foray into the good ole fashion “Whodunnit” genre of books since I was a kid, and we were trying to find out who made off with the cookies, or which teacher is actually an alien. It was enjoyable, and covered all the core components.
P.D. James has a delightful command of prose. Her language is sophisticated, but easy to read. Descriptions of setting are vivid. She also does a fantastic job at creating very distinct POV’s. Tally Clutton’s perspective is different from Adam Dalgliesh’s. What each character thinks, is aware of, even the words used in the narrative subtly adjusts depending on which character we are following.
The story itself starts slow. She even titles the first section of the book, “The Players.” This is because we hop from Point of View to Point of View, getting to know each character, and why s/he might be a suspect… Or the victim. After grinding through this initial setup, we are taken along an enjoyable ride that is equally filled with subtle clues and red herrings. To be fair though, some of these clues might have been a bit too subtle. As we investigate each suspect, we are renewed with a feeling of why that character might be the murderer, making us question why we ever thought it was the one before. At the end, the author does a good job at pointing out the clues we should have caught without it being too obvious a data dump. The subplot (the love interest between Dalgliesh and Emma) is non-invasive, but by the end we are feverishly along for the ride, crossing our fingers and hoping for a happy ending.
At present, I don’t have a lot of books in this genre to compare to, but as a first stab at reading them, it was enjoyable and worth the read. Will I read it again? Probably. It’d be interesting to see if I can pick up on the details that Dalgliesh and his team did as they performed the investigation.