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A subtle and powerful work of contemporary fiction.
Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered.
Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves; Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems; and the ambitious Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly has the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects than there is a second brutal killing, and the whole investigation is jeopardized when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder.
This eagerly awaited successor to the international bestseller The Murder Room displays all the qualities that lovers of P. D. JamesĄŻs novels the world over have come to expect: sensitive characterization, an exciting and superbly structured plot and vivid evocation of place.
From the Hardcover edition.
- Watery Country Manor Mystery
If you have read P.D. James before, there is no need to read any further for this is another of her gripping mysteries that will keep you up late into the night reading it. How does a nice lady like her come up with the most vile forms of murder for Adam Dalgliesh and his team to solve?
This mystery could be called an "English Manor-House Mystery" since all of the characters, innocent, guilty, victims and investigators are all sequestered leaving us to decide who-dun-it
If you have a good map of the southwest of England, look for the island of Combe with its famous lighthouse off of the coast of Cornwall on the edge of the Bristol Channel. You will have a hard time finding it even on the best and latest of the Ordnance Survey charts. Why is that? In the book, P.D. James explains that the island is owned by a private trust. That trust has been sucessful in keeping the existence of this island unknowns to those who are not islanders. This book may change that.
- Average, like most of her recent books
No, this is not a masterpiece ala her earlier works like The Black Tower or Death of an Expert Witness. However, it is not a washout either. Plotting never has been a particular strength of hers so it is unfair to criticize the book solely from a plot perspective. Having said that, there are several cringeworthy passages at critical junctures. Without revealing any critical spoilers, it is sufficient to state that Vasoline never should be used as a critical plotting device involving bra and panties. The setting of a remote lighthouse off the coast of England gives the Baroness a fine opportunity to display her gifts for detailing place and time in her classical fashion which is perhaps her best strength. For Dalgleish aficionados, it shows him in a supporting role relegated to the background due to circumstances which are plot sensitive and won't be detailed in this review. ...more info
- P.D. James never disappoints
The life and ideas of Inspector Dagleish unfold slowly; the personality of the murdered is slowly revealed: the venality, nobility and the twisted thoughts of the suspects roll and roil through this tale. Each new one makes me say "The best yet" and I wait eagerly for the next one. ...more info
- Masterful Mystery of the Traditional Kind
P.D. James, master of the traditional English mystery, is back again with "The Lighthouse," another in her Adam Dalgliesh mystery novels. While forensics, of course, is the latest fashion in whodunits, and while TV shows like "Cold Case" feature sympathetic victims whose fates make you tear up, Ms. James continues to do what she does best: the dogged Dalgliesh solves cases the old fashioned way; the victim is unsympathetic, and all the suspects have a reason to want out him of the way.
But Ms. James does pay homage to the "new" police procedural style by at least offering an explanation of why the CSIs (called SOCO's in Brit-speak, for I think Scene of Crime Officer) do not appear--the crime takes place on an isolated (fictional) "Combe Island," off the coast of Cornwall, and then . . . ah, but best not to say any more.
As always, the characters are expertly drawn (my favorite is the young woman, Millie, who Ms. James, now in her 80s, seems to understand very well), the scenes expertly set, the clues all there for you. But will you guess whodunit before Ms. James is ready to tell you? That, of course, is always the pleasure in a James novel. It's always a treat to play along, perhaps re-reading certain scenes when something comes to "AD's" mind. Or your own.
And, again as always, the novel is very cinematic--many of the books in the series have been seen on BBC television--and maybe you'll start casting the movie version in your head.
It gives away nothing to say that at the end of "The Lighthouse," Adam Dalgliesh and his associates Kate Miskin and Francis Benton-Smith leave the scene by helicopter. In your mind maybe you'll hear the noise of the chopper, as it "soars above a white tumble of clouds into the shining air."
Roll the credits....more info
- Dalgliesh going through some changes.
I have to be honest from the beginning of this review and say that I do not think that PD James can write a bad book. Even at her worst, the writing is literate, beautifully described and meticulously plotted. I loved 90% of The Lighthouse-- really enjoyed the returned to a classic limited suspect mystery. I also really like that she obviously intends to let Dalgliesh grow emotionally; there is nothing worse than long-running series which keep their main character trapped in amber.
This said, I was really unimpressed with the conclusion of the book for a couple of reasons. Too much deus ex machina for me. That said, other James' fans I know clearly were not bothered, so your mileage may vary.
If you have never read PD James before, then I'd recommend that you start with her earlier work. Regular addicts of her novels should rest assured that they will not be (too) disappointed. ...more info
- Lights Out!
More cookie cutter PD James, with an antiquity threatened by an obnoxious person who goes around giving everyone reasons (convincing ot not) to kill him, with endless detail on everything under the sun, including the contents of people's pantries (James seems to take an increasing interest in food in her later books--everyone drinks fresh-squeezed orange juice and freshly ground coffee, by the way). Dalgleish, who has not been interesting in twenty years, continues to fret, in a dull way, over his tepid love affair with the lovely and brilliant Emma. Kate Miskin gets a love life of her own (she should be well into her forties by now), but it's dull too. The rest of the characters, from the high-born old lady to the young street waif and the various morose but well-spoken middle-agers are all types we've seen from James before, done this time with little energy. The mystery itself is not bad, but one loses interest as the pages go on and on and on. James has done much better in A Mind To Murder, Unnatural Causes, Shroud for a Nightingale, The Black Tower and A Taste for Death. Her last three books suggest an elderly author simply going through the motions. This may be good enough for the fawning print reviewers, who these days I suspect will say anything she writes is wonderful; but it you want the Great James, you must read her earlier work. In retrospect it seems that James probably peaked with A Taste for Death (her best crime novel, though not her best mystery) and has been on a slow decline for the last twenty years. Her last three really add nothing to her distinguished body of work, beyond allowing Dalgleish to find a happiness with the brilliant but banal Emma....more info
- A dish that is best served cold
This is the latest of the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. The time is the present. Commander Dalgliesh is now a permanent ADC to the Commissioner. He is sent to investigate the death of a prominent individual on the island of Combe off the Cornish coast accompanied by Detective Inspector Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith. They discover that the victim was not well liked, and while the pool of possible suspects is small, most of them had a motive for his death. The investigation needs to dig into the past. Everyone is not telling the entire truth about events.
The investigation takes some surprising turns as information comes to light. Along the way, Benton-Smith becomes reacquainted with rock climbing and reveals some skills in dealing with people. Various relationships between people are revealed. The case puts some new directions in some people's lives.
The story ends in an epilogue, with Dalgliesh planning to get married.
One can wonder if the author plans another novel (she turns 87 this year) or if this is the final chapter for Dalgliesh. We have just learned a lot about some of the characters....more info
- P.D. James- Style Herself
If style is the man himself, what must be P.D.James? She happens to write mystery stories, but if she were in charge of the words on cereal boxes, I would begin my day with corn flakes just to scan her elegant prose. She is a master of the language and I am hard pressed to name a living writer in any genre who can surpass her carefully crafted sentences. Those $5 words that appear in print only once in 10,000 offerings occupy all her leaves. And being the perfect choice, they fit seamlessly into the passage and convey meaning via context. Reading James can make you too smart for words.
The Lighthouse follows the pattern common to most of her settings. A murder occurs in an isolated, yet toney location. Adam Dalgliesh zips to the scene and interviews the assembly of characters. Most are intellectuals or professionals who are lent silver tongues by Ms. James' artistry. But, she always throws in some plain-speaking working class types as well as a ditsy bird who yearns to doff her knickers. Don't try to figure out the perpetrator. A.D. will intuit meaning from the most obscure of encounters and the bad guy will be shackled after a short piece of action.
I read part of this novel while NYPD played (on mute). The contrast with the wine-sipping, Mozart-listening, poetry-writing Commander Dalgliesh was quite the hoot. But you don't have to believe P.D.James- just enjoy her....more info
- Another great mysery from P.D. James
I am a great fan of the this author's Inspector Dalgliesh mysteries. I rank "The Lighthouse" as one of her best stories so far. Her descriptions of the English countryside help set the stage for the events taking place in the book. She also sets the stage for each character and suspect with their possible motivations for the crime. I highly recommend this book, whether you are new to the work of P.D. James or a devoted reader of her work....more info
- What a marvellous story!
P.D. James has long been one of my very favourite authors and her Adam Dalgliesh is a wonderful character. He's clever, kind and gentle. And Kate and Benton-Smith, his two main officers are also wonderful. In this book we have a variation of a locked room mystery, but it's not a room but a remote island. Only one of the people on the island could have been the one that put Oliver on his hanging rope in the lighthouse. And Adam, Kate and Benton-Smith are the only police presence on the island because Dalgliesh's boss knows that Dalgliesh is the man for dealing with political hot potatoes and for handling potential problems discreetly. Adam and his team do get to the answer in the end, but not before each of them has to face a personal danger first. This is a truly wonderful book written in the P.D. James fashion that has a tendency to leave the reader breathless. ...more info
- A major flaw in the plot
I've been a fan of PD James for more than 30 years now and was looking forward to The Lighthouse. However, the book was completely ruined for me by a basic flaw -- the lighthouse.
It is a basic element of the plot that the island is in darkness at night, with the lighthouse shining out and away from the island itself. However, this is the only lighthouse on the island. If that is true, then the light on the lighthouse would be a rotating one. Shipping would not pass the island in just one direction, so the light would have to be visible from every direction. I live in a group of islands, including some which have just one lighthouse -- when walking home in the dark, the light sweeps across the island as it rotates, then it's pitch black until the light passes again. I'm afraid I couldn't get past this basic error and although I enjoyed the characters, the plot was ruined....more info
- A Faulty Page Turner
Sadly, Adam Dalgliesh, the leading mind of the book, is by far the least interesting. The episodes of his affair of the heart with the damsel Emma are worth skipping altogether. (In fact, the entire prologue is tedious.) However, the locale and the possible suspects are all first rate as is the reason for the crime(s). Also, note that the most important chapter in which Dagliesh figures out the exceedingly clever why and where for seems to come out of nowhere. There are other missteps along the way, too.
Yes, this book needed an editor, but then would someone of P.D. James' repute take advice? I don't know. I haven't read her acclaimed autobiography.
Yet to be truthful, it was an enjoyable read....more info
- Character development! :-)
I've always enjoyed P.D. James Adam Dalgliesh mysteries, but have always wished for a little bit more information about the characters. I got my wish with "The Lighthouse"! Dalgliesh moves forward, and so does Kate, his loyal assistant. The end is more of a new beginning for the characters, instead of being just a mystery resolved.
I got the feeling that maybe P.D. James is trying to complete the cirlce in this book. Maybe it's the last AD mystery? I hope not, I love all of them....more info
- Just as described
Great book, just like every single one written by P.D. James, a Scotland Yard investigation with famous Adam Dalgliesh, she makes you want to read the book just in one sitting!!!...more info
- Another winner, but.....
As usual, I couldn't put the book down. It has all the elements of classic P.D. James: fascinating setting, multi-dimensional characters, intelligent plotting. However, two elements of the writing bothered me enough to hold back from giving it 5 stars. First is the does/doesn't he/she love me scenario between Adam and Emma. It seems unworthy of the characters and the author (and Emma's concern that Adam might love her only for her beauty seems out of place in a book of this quality). Second was the scene in which Kate Miskin slathers her body in Vaseline to fit through a lighthouse window. This was used for a similar effect (although the ointment in question wasn't Vaseline) in Nevada Barr's 2003 mystery "Flashback," in her Anna Pigeon series. Strangely, it was the book I read immediately before "The Lighthouse," so the similarities were very noticeable and disturbing....more info
- Straight to PBS Mystery?
This novel reads like a script, complete with stage instructions and wardrobe selections. The unwieldy side story of the affair with Emma is worthy of a couple of high schoolers and out of character for AD. It doesn't ring true and it's tiresome.
A longtime James fan, I wanted so much to like this book, especially given all the positive reviews. It starts well but becomes mired in endless pages of unnecessary background information about everyone who wanders through, even the very minor characters. The story is reminiscent of "Death in Holy Orders" in the interaction between between the main victim and the others in a closed environment. There are also several character types whom you'll recognize from other books (I kept thinking back to "The Skull Beneath the Skin" and "The Black Tower). ...more info
- Is P.D. James saying goodbye to us?
Although beautifully and intelligently written as usual, this story lacks the passion and excitement of her earlier work. The tale which opened with such promise descended into banality as the plot unfolded, and the denouement a cheap shot to end the book, as though the author was tired of the whole thing. The only real mystery in this story is whether Baroness James would kill off Adam Dalgliesh as she approaches the end of her own career. ...more info
- Audiobook Shortcoming
We decided to try listening to, rather than reading, P.D.James on a long car trip.
It was a bad decision.
James' work is meant to be read, not listened to. Her achingly rich physical descriptions become really tedious and wandering when read, even by a skilled and empathetic reader like Charles Keating.
This is a great story, representing a very notable development of an ongoing James character. We learned that, to be appreciated, it must be read.
Live and learn!...more info
- Insular affair
Adam Dalgliesh is to investigate a violent death on Combe Island near Cornwall. The place offers peace and security to its visitors. The police unit, Inspector Miskin and Sgt. Benton-Smith are to assist Adam, are not really welcome, but its presence is a necessity.
The decedent, Nathan Oliver, had been a noted writer. He had had an unpleasant personality, a tendency to bully others. His daughter and a copy-editor, secretary assisted him in his work and were on the island with him.
The island was owned by a trust. Rupert Maycroft, a retired solicitor, was the secretary. A retired physician, Guy Snavely, functioned as a sort of second in command. Another person is murdered.
It turns out that Benton-Smith is the grandson of a famous mountain climber. The boatman and Benton-Smith undertake a climb in order to get some evidence at the base of a cliff. An island visitor has SARS infecting Adam in the process. With Adam sick, Kate Miskin leads the investigation.
Adam, in his sickness, his fever, works out the solution to the mystery and arranges for Kate to be contacted. He determines that they had been working at things from the wrong end. Arrests and the expiration of the quarantine period follow. Kate Miskin learns to appreciate the humanity of her junior officer, Benton-Smith. ...more info
- A truly wonderful book
I like this author's work so much that I actually bought the hard cover since I couldn't wait for the pb to be issued. However, P. D. James' view of life as expressed by her characters can be very pessimistic at times (a contrast to her autobiography). In this one, there is still the feeling that the characters are going through the motions of living, never really feeling any joy--or often even happiness. However, when Adam and Emma come together at the end, there was a ray of hope. Please, Ms. James give us a new book ASAP!...more info
- Vivid Writing; Solid Plot; James Makes It Look Easy
Would that all writers of mystery used words as well as PD James does in The Lighthouse. James is, for one thing, notable for her skill at keeping her characters fresh and her plots stimulating. In this book, a mysterious death occurs on a secluded, isolated island that is used as a getaway by the rich and powerful. James richly describes the island and the people, and with her words is able to show you so much more about her characters and their motivations than she actually tells. Many years ago, James introduced the concept of literature as mystery, and she can still be counted on to deliver a satisfying novel....more info
- This book deserves a 10 star rating
I just got done writing a fairly long review, so I'll be brief with this one. I highly recommend this book, as I recommend all of P.D. James' books. If you want an author who keeps things fresh and entertaining, then you will definitely enjoy this book. Maybe this isn't James' strongest book, but that doesn't matter. She's a master, and she deserves well above four stars. For these people below me to knock it down makes me wonder if they really know what a dearth of great authors are out there. But I can see their point, since James has set the bar so high with all her books before this one....more info
BEST P.D.JAMES IN A LONG TIME. FULL OF DALGLEISH. A KOT OF SUSPENSE, ALITTLE HISTORY. JUST PERFECT....more info
- A Good Read, but not Classic P.D. James
This is a good mystery read. The story takes place in a classic setting--an island--which makes for a tense situation. There's history, intrigue, and even just a hint of romance. But it's not classic James. I enjoyed it and recommend it to other loyal fans, but don't start with this one if you're not familiar with her work. A Taste for Death would be a better place to start....more info
- Still in top form at age 80
I always admire top authors who give nods to their contemporaries. P. D. James in this book makes a quick references to THE NO. 1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY and a more subtle reference to Stilla Remington's autobiography A nice touch there. Yet another nice touch is the importance given to the two subordinates assisting Dagleish. I hope that we'll see more of them.A large portion of the book is devoted to the introduction of characters,both those involved in the investigation and those who are suspects. Those anxious to get into the mystery puzzle may be put off by the long introduction, but it definitely got me more involved in the story. I do recommend familiarizing oneself with P.D. James and Inspector Dagleish before reading this one, but those who are familiar with the author and the principle character should very much welcome this newest book in the series. ...more info
- Masterfully Written
I would have gone with 5 stars if not for the first 80 or so pages. If you get past the long drawn out introduction of the characters, the story is excellent, as is the writing & setting. A novel that grips you to the very end...more info
- P.D James came down from a higher league.
No one currently writing can match her. She is in there with Dashiell Hammet.
I read "The Lighthouse", then bought a copy for a gift.
Rowse Reviews...more info