A sprawling paean to the Thames River and its London environs, James's 12th novel and latest mystery to feature New Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgleish is set in the modern publishing world where traditions may crumble but where such timeless emotions as grief, rage and love prevail. Peverell Press, which occupies the magnificent Innocent House, modeled on the palaces of Venice and built by the firm's founder in 1792, has been plagued by the misdeeds-misplaced manuscripts, lost illustrations-of an unknown ``office menace'' since the death, nine months earlier, of managing director Henry Peverell. The stakes are upped when a senior editor, recently sacked by the new director Gerard Etienne, kills herself. When Etienne is found dead in the same room, Dalgleish is called in to investigate. He discovers that plenty of people, including the four other partners in the firm and various employees whose jobs are threatened by Etienne's plans to sell Innocent House and modernize the firm, had reason to wish Etienne dead. James (Devices and Desires) gives pride of place here to lush, leisurely descriptions of waterside London and the landscape of the Essex coast; Dalgleish and his assistants seem more observers than participants in this plot that ticks along on its own momentum, driven by the various suspects' motivations and actions to the credible, if not fully prepared for, resolution. BOMC selection; Random House Large Print edition (ISBN 0-679-76033-4); author tour. (Feb.)
After a quick detour into science fiction with her last novel, The Children of Men (Knopf, 1993), the venerable James returns to the genre that made her famous. In Original Sin, detective Adam Dalgliesh investigates the bizarre death of a ruthless publisher.