I have been reading too much non-fiction, so while on vacation, I scanned through some of my books and decided to pick back up the PD James series about the Scotland Yard inspector. I read the first two about five years ago. I wouldn’t say I liked either of those as much as I liked her Children of Men book, but because I found a cheap edition with the first six books, I figured I should give them another try.
I do not really feel like I have enough of a sense of the main character, Adam Dalgliesh, going into this. First, it has been five years since I read the last book, but also, after reading back over those posts, I did not feel all that connected to the character. This was not much better, but it was an enjoyable enough mystery. Last year I re-read the whole Inspector Ganache series, and one of the things that stood out to me is that as much as I enjoy the series as a whole, a lot of the books need the rest of the series to make sense. Individually, especially in the early books, they can feel fairly weak regarding the characters. But over a series of nearly 20 books, the series becomes stronger because it is a long series that is allowed to develop over time. I cannot expect individual books to have the same characterization as a long series.
Adam Dalgliesh is tired. He has just finished a long and complicated case and is trying to rest and discern whether it is time to propose to his girlfriend. He likes his aunt. She never married and has become a successful writer and lives in a remote coastal community that is full of writers. Almost immediately, one of those writers goes missing. He is eventually found, apparently dead of natural causes, but with his hands cut off. As a reader, you know it is murder, but it takes a while for Dalgliesh to figure out how it is murder, and why the murder was done.
Part of the strength of the writing is that the series is out of time. It is officially set in the 1960s, but the time setting does not stand out. It could have been anywhere from the 1930s to the late 80s with just a few details that narrowed time. Dalgliesh is a good inspector, but there were plenty of dead ends here and he was far from a “superhero.” Unnatural Causes was plenty enough to keep me engaged. I mostly read a chapter or so after my kids were in bed during a trip to Disney or visiting my mother-in-law. The first two books I listened to on audiobook, this one I read entirely on Kindle. I have already started the next one on Kindle, but my library has the first eight books on audiobook, so I am alternating between audio and Kindle.