PD James is one of those authors that I feel like I should have read by now. I picked up a collection of the first six books in the series on kindle for cheap a bit ago and ended up checking out the audiobook from the library last week.
I read some Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes as a teen and was not particularly interested in the ‘who dun it’ aspects of mysteries. But I have been turned on to mysteries over the past several year with the more character based mysteries of Louise Penny, Martin Walker, J Mark Bertrand, Rhys Bowen, Dorothy Sayers and Georges Simenon. The mystery is still present, but the focus is more psychological and about the people around the crime than the particulars of the crime.
I have been listening to a Great Courses lecture on The Great Books for Skeptics and it cites these books and PD James as the start of a shift from the more formulaic pulp mysteries to more literary mysteries that are more common today.
I did not realize until I listened to the lecture after finishing Cover Her Face that it was written in 1962. It does not feel particularly old, but more a historical mystery set a couple of generations ago.
I had fairly low expectations because I have heard from a number of people that this series takes several books to really pick up steam. I enjoyed Cover Her Face and will read more, but it was not the best book I have read in a while. While this may have been the start of a new style of mystery, it felt fairly close in method to Agatha Christie’s Orient Express, which was the most recent mystery that I read.
Both books had an unlikable victim with a number of people that could have killed them and a number of people that would like to have seen them disappear. Both have the cultured, brilliant, slightly tortured detective. Both have a standard reveal where everyone is brought together at the end and the murder is laid out and the murder identified. But I do think that Adam Dalgliesh is more comparable to Inspector Gamache than Poirot, which does agree with the suggestion from the lecture.
I probably will keep checking out the audiobooks from the library now that I know they are there and because I enjoyed Cover Her Face