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DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS: An Adam Dalgliesh mystery

by P. D. James

Knopf, 2001
ISBN: 0-37-541255-7

Reviewed by Shirley H. Wetzel

Ronald Treeves, an unhappy young divinity student, is dead - buried under tons of sand at the foot of a treacherous cliff on a desolate stretch of English coastline. Was it a tragic accident, or suicide? Or might it have been a cleverly planned murder? When his adoptive father, the wealthy and powerful Sir Alred Treeves, receives an anonymous note suggesting that the death was no accident, and that the priests at St. Anselm's Theological College may be covering up crucial information, he wants answers, and turns to Scotland Yard to get them for him. Commander Adam Dagleish is taking a short vacation at the school, which, coincidentally, is well known to him from childhood Vacations. He offers to discretely check into the matter, even though there seems to Be little to investigate.

Shortly before his arrival, an elderly employee of the school, Margaret Munroe, is found dead in her rocking chair, knitting in her lap, apparently having succumbed to a severe heart condition. The reader knows, however, from being privy to entries from her diary, that there is reason to question her death as well.

In this tranquil, quiet backwater of the Anglican Church, undercurrents of deceit, treachery, and closely kept secrets abound.

Shortly after Dagleish's arrival, another death occurs, but this is definitely bloody murder. The victim has no friends among the small group staying at the college, and, as Dagleish soon discovers, each seems to have something to hide.

As always, James does a fine job of developing complex, interesting characters and depicting the bleak, forlorn scenery of coastal East Anglia. The book drags from time to time - it is 414 pages long - but is well worth reading.

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