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Devices and Desires (Adam Dalgliesh Series #8)

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Overview

Commander Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard has just published a new book of poems and has taken a brief respite from publicity on the remote Larksoken headland in a converted windmill left to him by his aunt. But he cannot so easily escape murder. A psychotic strangler of young women is at large, and getting nearer to Larksoken with every killing. And when Dalgliesh discovers the murdered body of the Acting Administrative Officer on the beach, he finds himself caught up in the passions and dangerous secrets of the ...
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Devices and Desires (Adam Dalgliesh Series #8)

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Overview

Commander Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard has just published a new book of poems and has taken a brief respite from publicity on the remote Larksoken headland in a converted windmill left to him by his aunt. But he cannot so easily escape murder. A psychotic strangler of young women is at large, and getting nearer to Larksoken with every killing. And when Dalgliesh discovers the murdered body of the Acting Administrative Officer on the beach, he finds himself caught up in the passions and dangerous secrets of the headland community and in one of the most baffling murder cases of his career.

When Inspector Dalgliesh moves into a picturesque coastline cottage, he discovers deadly deeds are being perpetrated under the shadow of a nearby atomic power station.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
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
Larry King
Brilliant...wonderful. P. D. James plays it again. -- USA Today
From the Publisher
“Taut.... Absorbing.... Better than her best.” —The New York Times Book Review

“I have often thought of mysteries as the sorbets of literature, something light and tangy to clear the palate between more serious courses. The books of P.D. James, however are more substantial fare, fulfilling as well as delicious, and Devices and Desires is no exception.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A masterful writer.... Devices and Desires seems to be that highly prized work–a terrific tale suspense and detection that also delivers the satisfaction of a mainstream novel.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Brilliant ... wonderful. P.D. James does it again.” —USA Today

“Her stories are so engrossing that it is difficult to read slowly enough to pay attention to the remarkable writing. But in Devices and Desires, she is so at the top of her form that to rush though would itself be a crime.” —The Kansas City Star

“Undiluted pleasure.” —Newsday

“Vintage P.D. James. . . . Devotees of Britain’s Queen of Crime will be enthralled . . . showcasing lyrical prose abounding with vivid imagery, suberbly delineated characters, and a labyrinthine puzzle.... It’s impossible to resist this haunting, dark tale.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“We’re glued to P.D. James’s beautifully spun whodunit.... The master’s shivering touch is intact.” —Glamour

“A cleverly crafted book that readers may very well stay up all night to finish.... She exposes the murderously repressed rage beneath the clam surface of typical middle-class Britishers.” —Boston Herald

“The greatest living mystery writer ... weaves a dazzling array of psychological profiles into a gently ironic examination of human life and the ‘relative value’ we ascribe to it.” —People

“James at her best ... a superb tale of murder.” —Booklist

Devices and Desires may be her best yet.... The plot is superb, with the larger moral issues of a nearby nuclear power station and the thickly interwoven lives of characters lending measured gravity to the sensational murder story. And the prose style is a dream.” —The Seattle Times

“Un-put-downable.... P.D. James is never content with just a formulaic detective story. She takes the whodunit to deeper levels.” —New Woman

“James is one of Britain’s best writers in the genre.... Devices and Desires brings the classic whodunit as far as it can go.” —The Detroit News

“The best book she’s written. It has literary merit that detective works seldom attempt ... everything fits beautifully.” —The Sacramento Bee

“No other mystery writer–and few writers period–offers such a rich bounty.... Devices and Desires is superb. It is what good writing–and reading–is all about. James has used all her powers to produce her best work yet. Her fans–old and new–will be overjoyed.” —Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“James once again gives us a convincing portrait of contemporary society, while at the same time she scrupulously observes–and smartly updates and complicates–all the mystery genre conventions.” —San Diego Magazine

“Demonstrates just how well James commands the English language.... 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.” —Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446359757
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Series: Adam Dalgliesh Series, #8
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 4.14 (w) x 6.76 (h) x 1.32 (d)

Meet the Author

P. D. James
P.D. James is the author of nineteen books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Departments of Great Britain’s Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she celebrated her eightieth birthday and published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991. She lives in London and Oxford.

Biography

Few writers have left so indelible an impression on crime fiction as P. D. (Phyllis Dorothy) James, an author whose elegant, bestselling novels have found an appreciative audience among readers and critics alike. James's intricately plotted books are filled with macabre events and shocking twists and turns, yet they are so beautifully written and morally complex that they cannot be dismissed as mere murder mysteries...although, in James's view, there's nothing "mere" about mysteries!

In James's native Britain (home of Wilkie Collins, Graham Greene, and the redoubtable Agatha Christie), the mystery is a time-honored form that has never been considered inferior. James explained her feelings in a 1998 interview with Salon.com: "It isn't easy to make this division and say: That's genre fiction and it's useless, and this is the so-called straight novel and we take it seriously. Novels are either good novels or they're not good novels, and that is the dividing line for me."

Although she always wanted to be a novelist, James came to writing relatively late in life. Her formal schooling ended at 16, when she went to work to help out her cash-strapped parents. In 1941 she married a doctor assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corps. He returned from WWII with a severe mental illness that lasted until his death in 1964, necessitating that James become the family breadwinner. She worked in hospital administration and then in various departments of the British Civil Service until her retirement in 1979. (Her experience navigating the labyrinthine corridors of government bureaucracies has provided a believable backdrop for many of her books.)

James's first novel, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962. An immediate success, it introduced the first of her two longtime series protagonists -- Adam Dalgleish, a police inspector in Scotland Yard and a published poet. Her second recurring character, a young private detective named Cordelia Gray, debuted in 1972's An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. Both Dalgliesh and Cordelia went on to star in a string of international bestsellers.

James has only occasionally departed from her series, most notably for the standalone mystery Innocent Blood (1980) and the dystopian sci-fi classic Children of Men (1992), which was turned into an Oscar-nominated film. In 2000, she published a slender "fragment of autobiography" called A Time to Be Earnest, described by The New York Time Book Review as " deeply moving, and all too short."

Good To Know

  • In television mini-series that have aired in the U.S. on PBS, British actors Roy Marsden and Martin Shaw have portrayed Adam Dalgliesh and Helen Baxendale has starred as Cordelia Gray.

  • James explained the essence of a murder mystery in a 2004 essay for Britain's Guardian: "E. M. Forster has written, 'The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died and the queen died of grief is a plot. The queen died and no one knew why until they discovered it was of grief is a mystery, a form capable of high development.' To that I would add: the queen died and everyone thought it was of grief until they discovered the puncture wound in her throat. That is a murder mystery and, in my view, it too is capable of high development. "

  • In 1983, James was awarded the OBE. In 1991 she was made a Life Peer (Baroness James of Holland Park).

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      1. Also Known As:
        Phyllis Dorothy James White (full name)
      2. Hometown:
        London, England
      1. Date of Birth:
        August 3, 1920
      2. Place of Birth:
        Oxford, England
      1. Education:
        Attended the Cambridge High School for Girls from 1931 to 1937 and later took evening classes in hospital administration

    Read an Excerpt

    Book One Friday 16 September to Tuesday 20 September

    1

    The Whistler's fourth victim was his youngest, Valerie Mitchell, aged fifteen years, eight months and four days, and she died because she missed the 9.40 bus from Easthaven to Cobb's Marsh. As always, she had left it until the last minute to leave the disco, and the floor was still a packed, gyrating mass of bodies under the makeshift strobe lights when she broke free of Wayne's clutching hands, shouted instructions to Shirl about their plans for next week above the raucous beat of the music and left the dance floor. Her last glimpse of Wayne was of his serious, bobbing face bizarrely striped with red, yellow and blue under the turning lights. Without waiting to change her shoes, she snatched up her jacket from the cloakroom peg and raced up the road past the darkened shops towards the bus station, her cumbersome shoulder-bag flapping against her ribs. But when she turned the corner into the station she saw with horror that the lights on their high poles shone down on a bleached and silent emptiness and, dashing to the corner, was in time to see the bus already half-way up the hill. There was still a chance if the lights were against it, and she began desperately chasing after it, hampered by her fragile, high-heeled shoes. But the lights were green and she watched helplessly, gasping and bent double with a sudden cramp, as it lumbered over the brow of a hill and like a brightly lit ship sank out of sight. "Oh no!" she screamed after it, "Oh God! Oh no!" and felt the tears of anger and dismay smarting her eyes.

    This was the end. It was her father who laid down the rules in her family, and there was never any appeal, any second chance. After protracted discussion and her repeated pleas, she had been allowed this weekly visit on Friday evenings to the disco run by the church Youth Club, provided she caught the 9.40 bus without fail. It put her down at the Crown and Anchor at Cobb's Marsh, only fifty yards from her cottage. From 10.15 her father would begin watching for the bus to pass the front room where he and her mother would sit half-watching the television, the curtains drawn back. Whatever the programme or weather, he would then put on his coat and come out to walk the fifty yards to meet her, keeping her always in sight. Since the Norfolk Whistler had begun his killings, her father had had an added justification for the mild domestic tyranny which, she half-realized, he both thought right in dealing with his only child and rather enjoyed. The concordat had been early established: "You do right by me, my girl, and I'll do right by you." She both loved him and slightly feared him, and she dreaded his anger. Now there would be one of those awful rows in which she knew she couldn't hope to look to her mother for support. It would be the end of her Friday evenings with Wayne and Shirl and the gang. Already they teased and pitied her because she was treated as a child. Now it would be total humiliation.

    Her first desperate thought was to hire a taxi and to chase the bus, but she didn't know where the cab rank was and she hadn't enough money; she was sure of that. She could go back to the disco and see if Wayne and Shirl and the gang between them could lend her enough. But Wayne was always skint and Shirl too mean, and by the time she had argued and cajoled it would be too late.

    And then came salvation. The lights had changed again to red, and a car at the end of a tail of four others was just drawing slowly to a stop. She found herself opposite the open, left-hand window and looking directly at two elderly women. She clutched at the lowered glass and said breathlessly:...

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    Table of Contents

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    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4
    ( 7 )
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    Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 19, 2007

      No One Quite Like Her

      This novel by PD James is by no means a story you will rush through. Ms. James simply does not allow that. She invites you into the story and though it may seem at first you are plodding along, her prose so enchants you that before you are aware, you are involved and committed. Few authors I have read have such rare talent to engross me on this level and such command of the English language. Excellent story. Superb writing. Timeless author.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted August 2, 2000

      Perhaps PD James best mystery

      PD James mysteries are very British with careful characterization, (usually) believable plot lines, and characters that generate sympathy (or antipathy). This is perhaps her best detective novel, with enough red herrings to make prediction difficult. It's a classic mystery (in the style of Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express'), with her favorite protagonist, Adam Dalgleish, in a remote vacation seaside village, bringing sanity and order to the violent convulsion of murder. If John LeCarre wrote murder mysteries, he'd wish he had written this one.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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      Posted February 19, 2012

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