Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Review: Devices and Desires, by PD James


Many people want Hilary Robarts dead. First of all, there's Ryan Blaney, the struggling artist and single father who she has been trying to evict from his cottage. Then there's Alex Mair, her former lover, who won't marry her and wants her out of the way so he can move to London. And finally, there's Neil Pascoe, against whom Hilary Robarts has drawn up a libel lawsuit. Which one of these people, if any, actually killed her?

On September 25th, Robarts's body is found on the beach by no less than Adam Dalgiesh, in Norfolk to deal with the personal effects of his aunt, who has recently passed away. The death is suspiciously simlar to the deaths of several other young women killed by someone dubbed "The Whistler." However, Hilary's death is different- someone has broken into her cottage.

"The Whistler," so called because he (or she) has been known to whistle after the deaths of his victims. He stalks only at night, and kills only young women. The manner in which he kills the women is too graphic to be discussed here. It is soon obvious that the Whistler has a mission and a goal- and that is the Larksoken power station, an anathema to many people in the Larksoken community. Are the Whistler's killings related to the death of Hilary Robarts? Or is her death a more personal matter?

P.D. James is one of my favorite mystery writers because she pays attention to the histories of each of her characters- from Adam Dalgliesh, who lost his wife at childbirth, to Alex and Alice Mair, brother and sister, who share a very dark secret between them. James knows her characters inside and out, which makes her books such a joy to read. She also knows the complexities of human nature, so that the death of a character is no surprise- for example, in Devices and Desires, James set it up so that we would all know beforehand who would be killed. Yet the way in which the crime is solved is intricate. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes to read mysteries.

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