Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh Series #3)

( 28 )

Overview

The third installment in the classic Adam Dalgliesh mystery series, Unnnatural Causes is another must-read page-turner from bestselling author P.D. James, “the reigning mistress of murder” (Time).

Maurice Seton was a famous mystery writer—but no murder he ever invented was more grisly than his own death. When his corpse is found in a drifting dinghy with both hands chopped off at the wrists, ripples of horror spread among his bizarre circle of friends. Now it’s up to brilliant ...

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Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh Series #3)

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Overview

The third installment in the classic Adam Dalgliesh mystery series, Unnnatural Causes is another must-read page-turner from bestselling author P.D. James, “the reigning mistress of murder” (Time).

Maurice Seton was a famous mystery writer—but no murder he ever invented was more grisly than his own death. When his corpse is found in a drifting dinghy with both hands chopped off at the wrists, ripples of horror spread among his bizarre circle of friends. Now it’s up to brilliant Scotland Yard inspector, Adam Dalgliesh, and his extraordinary aunt to uncover the shocking truth behind the writer’s death sentence, before the plot takes another murderous turn.

Unnatural Causes inspired Cosmopolitan to fervently hope, “if we’re lucky, there will always be an England and there will always be a P.D. James.”

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Time The reigning mistress of murder.

People P. D. James is the greatest living mystery writer.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743219594
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 7/31/2001
  • Series: Adam Dalgliesh Series , #3
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 172,863
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

P. D. James

P.D. James is the author of twenty previous 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 and was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008. 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).

  • Read More Show Less
      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

    Chapter One

    The corpse without hands lay in the bottom of a small sailing dinghy drifting just within sight of the Suffolk coast. It was the body of a middle-aged man, a dapper little cadaver, its shroud a dark pin-striped suit which fitted the narrow body as elegantly in death as it had in life. The hand-made shoes still gleamed except for some scruffing of the toe caps, the silk tie was knotted under the prominent Adam's apple. He had dressed with careful orthodoxy for the town, this hapless voyager; not for this lonely sea; nor for this death.

    It was early afternoon in mid October and the glazed eyes were turned upwards to a sky of surprising blue across which the light south-west wind was dragging a few torn rags of cloud. The wooden shell, without mast or row locks, bounced gently on the surge of the North Sea so that the head shifted and rolled as if in restless sleep. It had been an unremarkable face even in life and death had given it nothing but a pitiful vacuity. The fair hair grew sparsely from a high bumpy forehead, the nose was so narrow that the white ridge of bone looked as if it were about to pierce the flesh; the mouth, small and thin-lipped, had dropped open to reveal two prominent front teeth which gave the whole face the supercilious look of a dead hare.

    The legs, still clamped in rigor, were wedged one each side of the centre-board case and the forearms had been placed resting on the thwart. Both hands had been taken off at the wrists. There had been little bleeding. On each forearm a trickle of blood had spun a black web between the stiff fair hairs and the thwart was stained as if it had been used as a chopping block. But that was all; the rest of the body and the boards of the dinghy were free of blood.

    The right hand had been taken cleanly off and the curved end of the radius glistened white; but the left had been bungled and the jagged splinters of bone, needle sharp, stuck out from the receding flesh. Both jacket sleeves and shirt cuffs had been pulled up for the butchery and a pair of gold initialled cuff links dangled free, glinting as they slowly turned and were caught by the autumn sun.

    The dinghy, its paintwork faded and peeling, drifted like a discarded toy on an almost empty sea. On the horizon the divided silhouette of a coaster was making her way down the Yarmouth Lanes; nothing else was in sight. About two o'clock a black dot swooped across the sky towards the land trailing its feathered tail and the air was torn by the scream of engines. Then the roar faded and there was again no sound but the sucking of the water against the boat and the occasional cry of a gull.

    Suddenly the dinghy rocked violently, then steadied itself and swung slowly round. As if sensing the strong tug of the on-shore current, it began to move more purposefully. A black-headed gull, which had dropped lightly on to the prow and had perched there, rigid as a figure-head, rose with wild cries to circle above the body. Slowly, inexorably, the water dancing at the prow, the little boat bore its dreadful cargo towards the shore.

    Copyright © 1967 by P. D. James

    Copyright renewed © 1995 by P. D. James

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    Table of Contents

    Read More Show Less

    First Chapter

    Chapter One

    The corpse without hands lay in the bottom of a small sailing dinghy drifting just within sight of the Suffolk coast. It was the body of a middle-aged man, a dapper little cadaver, its shroud a dark pin-striped suit which fitted the narrow body as elegantly in death as it had in life. The hand-made shoes still gleamed except for some scruffing of the toe caps, the silk tie was knotted under the prominent Adam's apple. He had dressed with careful orthodoxy for the town, this hapless voyager; not for this lonely sea; nor for this death.

    It was early afternoon in mid October and the glazed eyes were turned upwards to a sky of surprising blue across which the light south-west wind was dragging a few torn rags of cloud. The wooden shell, without mast or row locks, bounced gently on the surge of the North Sea so that the head shifted and rolled as if in restless sleep. It had been an unremarkable face even in life and death had given it nothing but a pitiful vacuity. The fair hair grew sparsely from a high bumpy forehead, the nose was so narrow that the white ridge of bone looked as if it were about to pierce the flesh; the mouth, small and thin-lipped, had dropped open to reveal two prominent front teeth which gave the whole face the supercilious look of a dead hare.

    The legs, still clamped in rigor, were wedged one each side of the centre-board case and the forearms had been placed resting on the thwart. Both hands had been taken off at the wrists. There had been little bleeding. On each forearm a trickle of blood had spun a black web between the stiff fair hairs and the thwart was stained as if it had been used as a chopping block. But that was all; the rest of the body and the boards of the dinghy were free of blood.

    The right hand had been taken cleanly off and the curved end of the radius glistened white; but the left had been bungled and the jagged splinters of bone, needle sharp, stuck out from the receding flesh. Both jacket sleeves and shirt cuffs had been pulled up for the butchery and a pair of gold initialled cuff links dangled free, glinting as they slowly turned and were caught by the autumn sun.

    The dinghy, its paintwork faded and peeling, drifted like a discarded toy on an almost empty sea. On the horizon the divided silhouette of a coaster was making her way down the Yarmouth Lanes; nothing else was in sight. About two o'clock a black dot swooped across the sky towards the land trailing its feathered tail and the air was torn by the scream of engines. Then the roar faded and there was again no sound but the sucking of the water against the boat and the occasional cry of a gull.

    Suddenly the dinghy rocked violently, then steadied itself and swung slowly round. As if sensing the strong tug of the on-shore current, it began to move more purposefully. A black-headed gull, which had dropped lightly on to the prow and had perched there, rigid as a figure-head, rose with wild cries to circle above the body. Slowly, inexorably, the water dancing at the prow, the little boat bore its dreadful cargo towards the shore.

    Copyright © 1967 by P. D. James
    Copyright renewed © 1995 by P. D. James

    Read More Show Less

    Customer Reviews

    Average Rating 4.5
    ( 28 )
    Rating Distribution

    5 Star

    (17)

    4 Star

    (6)

    3 Star

    (4)

    2 Star

    (1)

    1 Star

    (0)

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
    • Posted January 6, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      Very Well Done

      This was the best installment of the Dalgliesh series so far. It moved a little quicker than the previous two and its narrative was a bit more gripping due to the enhancement of James' finely-crafted setting. The open headlands, the steep cliffs, and the raging waves of the Suffolk coast make the reading very piquant. In my estimation of fiction, especially mysteries, the setting is all-important and this book fit perfectly within my taste for country and coastal settings. I especially enjoyed and identified with these lines describing Dalgliesh at the beginning of chapter five of the first part:<BR/><BR/>"He had always enjoyed contrast in art or nature and at Pentlands, once night had fallen, the pleasures of contrast were easily self-induced. Inside the cottage there was light and warmth, all the colours and comfort of civilized domesticity; outside under the low clouds there was darkness, solitude, mystery."

      6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted February 23, 2009

      I Also Recommend:

      Unnatural Causes - Naturally great reading

      As usual, PD James has done a fine job.
      This is the 3rd book in the Adam Dagliesh series and
      I enjoyed it more than some of the more recent boks in the Dagliesh series.
      Highly recommend.

      1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 24, 2014

      Rose

      Anyone still here?

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 4, 2014

      Pace

      Flicks Stray. He laughs.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 6, 2014

      Skylar

      Arent we all at some point?

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 2, 2014

      Cassi

      "What is it S?"

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 2, 2014

      Wims

      She blinks, hugging the orange sweater to her chest. "Erm... hi." e-o

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 9, 2014

      Moon

      Listens to compuse.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 2, 2014

      Asylum

      Shame, dat. :3 'S educational.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 3, 2014

      Asylum

      That was embarrassing.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 15, 2014

      S

      Sits down

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 3, 2014

      Guthix

      He yawns. "Ima go."

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 6, 2014

      Andrew

      Ive seen it before long story

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted March 6, 2014

      Cassi

      Bored

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted December 31, 2013

      Post what you saw

      Here

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Anonymous

      Posted February 13, 2014

      A satisfactory literate mystery

      James can be too dark not in grafic violence but in situations without hope especially the young this is also a novel of just 210 pages a short but not a fast read . M.A.@spsrta

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Posted November 1, 2013

      Good read, makes the brain work

      Excellent mystery. You have to read all the way to the end to figure out who did it.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    • Posted October 26, 2013

      Excellent!

      I always enjoy P D James plots. The Adam Dagliesh books are always an interesting read.

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    • Posted October 25, 2013

      Definitely four stars

      Very creative, enjoyable reading

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    • Anonymous

      Posted October 17, 2013

      Really an excellent mystery and a great atmosphere.

      Really an excellent mystery and a great atmosphere.

      Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews

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