What’s it about?
P. D. James was frequently commissioned by newspapers and magazines to write a short story for Christmas, and four of the best have been drawn from the archives and published here together for the first time. From the title story about a strained country-house Christmas party, to another about an illicit affair that ends in murder, plus two cases for detective Adam Dalgliesh, these are masterfully atmospheric stories by the acknowledged ‘Queen of Crime’.
This was our book club pick for December and one which we’ll be discussing next week. I couldn’t wait till then to post my thoughts on my first PD James experience so here we are.
There are four short stories in this book ranging from about 30 – 40 pages. The first two in the book, The Mistletoe Murder and A Very Commonplace Murder, I thought were brilliant. Given they were roughly 30 ish pages each they both left me feeling as satisfied as if I’d read a full size novel in the plot, characters and reveal. I should have seen it coming…of course I should but regular readers know I never do. Although I have suspicions, I do tend to accept everything at face value and don’t question EVERYTHING I read – hey ho! This is why I thought these 2 stories were excellent, to be able to get all the info you need, create the suspense and deception in such a short amount of pages – bravo! (Reminded me of Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected).
However, I wasn’t as enamoured with the second half of the book, the Detective Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the mysteries, I just didn’t really gel with him. It was all a little too neat and wrapped up too quickly. I’d definitely read more of James’ work but wouldn’t make a point of reading the Dalgliesh books unless someone could convince me otherwise. Of course, I’m assuming she has written other things beside Dalgliesh because I don’t actually know.
Overall, I’d definitely recommend this book just for the first 2 stories and at the time of writing I paid about £3.50 so worth it. As a side note this edition is quite stunning. It has a gorgeous lino print by Angela Harding to the cover and overall a very rustic feel and texture which I really liked.
Author link: Biography
Small print for info
No of pages: 136
Publisher: Faber & Faber