(Note: My review of The Private Patient was originally published on Goodreads on January 24, 2009.)
The Private Patient by P.D. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When you pick up a P.D. James mystery, you know that you are in the hands of a master. Cleanly plotted, meticulously detailed, characters revealed layer by layer, hers are the epitome of the "British mysteries" in the tradition of the great Agatha. It is a tradition that I know and love.
The Private Patient is her latest entry in the saga of Commander Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard. It is a police procedural with, as usual, James' touch of humanism.
We find that Dalgliesh is about to marry his beloved. Their romance has had its rocky bits as most romances do, but finally they have decided to join forces officially.
Before that can take place though, Adam is confronted with another mystery, the murder of a famous, and apparently rather notorious, investigative journalist, who has a reputation for ruthlessness in her profession.
Said journalist had decided, after some 30 years of living with it, to have a disfiguring scar removed from her face. She selected a surgeon who maintains a private clinic in Dorset for his patients who seek privacy. And there, after successful surgery on her face, is where the journalist is murdered.
In short order, a second murder, of a friend of the journalist who had followed her to Dorset, takes place and the plot thickens.
Dalgliesh and his team pursue every clue, interview all the principals, eliminate all the red herrings, and eventually are zeroing in on the "prime suspect" when things come to a head in a (perhaps) not unsurprising way.
It is always a joy to read James' books and just to watch the way she works. This was not her best effort, I thought, but still, it was a satisfying read, one that I would certainly recommend to fans of the genre.
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