Monday, November 16, 2009

Mystery Book Review: The Private Patient by P. D. James

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of The Private Patient by P. D. James. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

The Private Patient by P. D. James

An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery

Vintage (Trade Paperback)
ISBN-10: 0-307-45528-9 (0307455289)
ISBN-13: 978-0-307-45528-4 (9780307455284)
Publication Date: November 2009
List Price: $15.00

Review: Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates the murder of an investigative reporter in an isolated, secure manor house, in The Private Patient, the 14th mystery in this series by P. D. James.

Rhoda Gradwyn may have the title of investigative journalist, but she's really a gossipmonger. And she's very good at her job. At the age of 13, she was hit in the face with a broken whiskey bottle, courtesy of her irate, abusive, and drunken father. The attack left a grotesque scar on the side of her face. Thirty-four years later, she decides to have plastic surgery to remove the disfiguration. When her doctor, George Chandler Powell, asks why now, her cryptic reply is that she no longer has need of it. Rather than have the surgery in London, she elects to have the procedure done at Chandler Powell's private clinic at his home, Cheverell Manor in Dorset. It's private and her security can be guaranteed. Or so she thinks. Two days after the surgery, she is found dead in her bed, strangled. Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate, and they immediately focus on members of Chandler Powell's household and clinic staff. Which leads Dalgliesh to wonder if Rhoda Gradwyn was, in fact, the sole victim here. Might someone be trying to discredit the doctor as well?

The list of suspects is surprisingly long, from Chandler Powell's surgical assistant, nurse, secretary, and bookkeeper to his household, even his sister. And there were also several patients in residence at the time. It seems no one was particularly fond of Rhoda, most fearing that upon leaving she would give a scathing report on her stay there. Still, no one has a solid motive. But as Dalgliesh digs deeper, it becomes apparent that there is more to this murder. Why did Rhoda choose this particular physician? Why choose the manor clinic over a more convenient London hospital? Did one dictate the other? Hidden secrets and old crimes are just a few of the bewildering and captivating aspects of the case.

The Private Patient is in many ways an exceptional manor house-style mystery. The characters, even the minor ones, are fully developed, vital and vibrant, the location appropriately moody and atmospheric. The keenly developed plot includes twists that are as unexpected as they are unpredictable. There are hints that this may be Dalgliesh's final case, and if so, it's a grand way to end a long, distinguished, and memorable career.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of The Private Patient and to Random House for providing a trade paperback edition of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

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Synopsis (from the publisher): Cheverell Manor is a beautiful old house in Dorset, which its owner, the famous plastic surgeon George Chandler-Powell, uses as a private clinic. When the investigative journalist, Rhoda Gradwyn, arrives to have a disfiguring facial scar removed, she has every expectation of a successful operation and a peaceful week recuperating.

But the clinic houses an implacable enemy and within hours of the operation Rhoda is murdered. Commander Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate a case complicated by old crimes and the dark secrets of the past. Before Rhoda's murder is solved, a second horrific death adds to the complexities of one of Dalgliesh's most perplexing and fascinating cases.

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