Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James: A

From the back cover:
On the East Anglican seacoast a small theological college hangs precariously on an eroding shoreline and an equally precarious future. Then, the body of a student is found buried in the sand, and the boy’s influential father demands that Scotland Yard investigate. Adam Dalgliesh, the son of a parson, once spent happy summers at the school. A detective who loves poetry, a man who has known loss and discovery, Dalgliesh is the perfect candidate to look for the truth in a remote, rarified community of the faithful—and the frightened. For when one death leads to another, Dalgliesh finds himself steeped in a world of good and evil, of stifled passions and hidden pasts, where someone has cause not just to commit one crime, but to begin an unholy order of murder…

Every so often, there’s a book in this series where Dalgliesh goes off on holiday to Suffolk or some other coastal surroundings and does a bit of unofficial investigating. Although his subordinates are well-defined and interesting characters, I do tend to prefer the books that feature more of his point-of-view, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I liked this one very much.

Having read so many books by P. D. James, it’s impossible not to spot the familiar tropes that appear in her stories. Sometimes I wonder if these elements are tossed into a hat and withdrawn at random. Most notably here are the secluded coastal community (like in The Black Tower) and the institution threatened with possible closure or substantial and unwelcome change (Original Sin). It’s a little irritating, but the result is so satisfying that it’s hard to be strongly annoyed by it. There are certainly enough variations to keep anything from being predictable.

The plot is very tidily structured, with revelations coming about logically and frequently enough that there aren’t any lulls. With the extra bits of introspection into Dalgliesh’s personality and not quite so much focus on random potential suspects, I think this would be a very good place to start for someone interested in getting into the series and getting to know its main character.

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