Book Review 42: A Mind To Murder by P.D. James

by | Aug 11, 2013 | 2013 Book Reviews, Adam Dalgliesh Novels, Book Reviews | 4 comments


P.D. James has been given the unofficial title, Queen of Crime, and after reading A Mind to Murder showed why she has earned this moniker.

A Mind to Murder began with the murder of Enid Bolam, the administrative head at the Steen Psychiatric Clinic in London. She had a chisel through her chest and a wooden phallic symbol in her arms. It appeared like we have the main culprits of sex and violence intersecting once again.

When Adam Dalgliesh arrived to investigate the murder, he found out that Miss Bolam was a goody, two-shoes stickler and having that phallic symbol was a ruse put there by the murderer. The detective was put through various twists and turns until the mystery of Miss Bolam’ death was solved at the end of the novel. Even though, that’s a simplistic overview of most mystery novels, James has really elevated the genre to show that literature can emerge from the murder mystery story.

Her ability to write beautiful passages of setting and place, to have excellent narrative flow, to create solid characters and to have the main character’s personality be revealed like a chef peeling an onion has made me want to read the entire Adam Dalgliesh oeuvre.

This is my second Adam Dalgliesh book I have reviewed for the blog. I reviewed Cover Her Face last year and both books have given me a wonderful reading experience even though they were published in the early 1960’s. A Mind To Murder does have its antiquated values interspersed throughout the novel, but James still deals with the universal themes of death, greed, and ambition that we can all relate to.

I can unabashedly recommend A Mind To Murder and I’m already looking forward to reading and reviewing Unnatural Causes, book three of these delightful novels.


  1. Anonymous

    PBS used to have a program called Mystery, I think. Anyway, they featured Adam Dalgliesh stories for a while. Loved them! But I’ve never read them. I think I need to change that.


    • kammbia1

      I would love to watch those programs, Becky. Thanks for the reminder. I will have to lookout for it.

      PD James is a terrific writer and I would definitely recommend these novels.

      Also, it is interesting that Adam Dalgliesh grew up as a Christian and left the faith as an adult. PD James reveals a lot of that internal struggle through Dalglesh in this series.


      • Rebecca LuElla Miller

        Sadly, Marion, PBS has practically done away with Mystery. They have melded it with Masterpiece Theater. I don’t know how often it airs, but when it does it’s something like Masterpiece Mystery. Too bad, because they really had produced some of the best mysteries.

        Interesting that PD James had Dalglesh struggle with his Christian background. I don’t think that came out in the PBS version.


        • kammbia1

          Shucks, Becky. I hope that series is on DVD then. I will have to look for it.

          I heard from a theology professor on a podcast about the Adam Dalgliesh novels. He said he had read all those novels and while they were not explicitly Christian….the worldview represented in the stories were.

          Also, P.D. James is a member of the Anglican Church and it had to have an influence on the Adam Dalgliesh series.

          The professor said the later books in the series like Death in Holy Orders really reflect Dalgliesh’s faith struggle in good detail.



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Marion Hill