Devices and Desires by P.D. James is the eighth Adam Dalgliesh mystery. Set against the remote Norfolk coastline under the shadow of a nuclear power station, a serial killer known as the Whistler is terrorising the neighbourhood.
P D James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London. She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors. She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters.
James ( A Taste for Death ) sets her 11th novel on Larksoken, a remote windswept headland in Norfolk, where the presence of a huge nuclear energy plant serves as a metaphor for the power of the past to rule over her characters. Commander Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, in Larsoken to settle an estate left him at the death of a relative, is drawn into the investigation of a serial killer, the Whistler. Dalgliesh's neighbors include the power station's director, Alex Mair; his elegant sister Alice, a cookbook author; acting administrator--and Alex's former lover--Hilary Robarts; and anti-nuclear activist Neil Pascoe. The next signature killing , of the widely disliked Robarts, turns out to have occurred hours after a young man who firmly establishes his identity as the Whistler commits suicide. The question of who murdered Robarts, then, centers around motive. This intricate, layered mystery may be read as parable: we can escape the consequences of our choices, political and personal, no more than we can shed our private histories. This is dark James, plotted with a slight unevenness but utterly faithful to her deeply and sympathetically plumbed characters. 175,000 first printing; BOMC and QPB main selections. (Feb.)
While the serial killer known as the Whistler goes about his grisly business in the area around the Larksoken Nuclear Power Station, Commander Adam Dalgliesh comes to Norfolk to settle his aunt's estate. Slowly, through masses of dialog and ruminations by most of the characters, the complex plot unfolds into the usual Jamesian tangle of human relationships and subplots. The story takes shape as James unwraps each nuance of personality, each intricate piece of the puzzle. Though not as fast paced as Shroud for a Nightingale (LJ 1/1/72) nor as finely plotted as A Taste for Death ( LJ 10/1/86), this latest novel demonstrates just how well James commands the English language and illustrates her considerable ability to craft and write a novel. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/89; BOMC and Quality Paperback Book Club main selections.-- Jo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., Ohio