The Murder Room (Adam Dalgliesh Series #12)

The Murder Room (Adam Dalgliesh Series #12)

by P. D. James

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Overview

National Bestseller 

Murders present meet murders past in P.D. James’s latest harrowing, thought-provoking thriller.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh is already acquainted with the Dupayne--a museum dedicated to the interwar years, with a room celebrating the most notorious murders of that time--when he is called to investigate the killing of one of the family trustees. He soon discovers that the victim was seeking to close the museum against the wishes of the fellow trustees and the Dupayne's devoted staff.  Everyone, it seems, has something to gain from the crime.  When it becomes clear that the murderer has been inspired by the real-life crimes from the murder room--and is preparing to kill again--Dalgliesh knows that to solve this case he has to get into the mind of a ruthless killer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400076093
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/09/2004
Series: Adam Dalgliesh Series , #12
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 133,275
Product dimensions: 5.06(w) x 7.88(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

P. D. James was the author of twenty books, many of which feature her detective hero Adam Dalgliesh and have been televised or filmed. She was the recipient of many honors, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and in 1991 was created Baroness James of Holland Park. She died in 2014.

Hometown:

London, England

Date of Birth:

August 3, 1920

Place of Birth:

Oxford, England

Education:

Attended the Cambridge High School for Girls from 1931 to 1937 and later took evening classes in hospital administration

Read an Excerpt

On Friday 25 October, exactly one week before the first body was discovered at the Dupayne Museum, Adam Dalgliesh visited the museum for the first time. The visit was fortuitous, the decision impulsive and he was later to look back on that afternoon as one of life’s bizarre coincidences which, although occurring more frequently than reason would expect, never fail to surprise.

He had left the Home Office building in Queen Anne’s Gate at two-thirty after a long morning meeting only briefly interrupted by the usual break for brought-in sandwiches and indifferent coffee, and was walking the short distance back to his New Scotland Yard office. He was alone; that too was fortuitous. The police representation at the meeting had been strong and Dalgliesh would normally have left with the Assistant Commissioner, but one of the Under Secretaries in the Criminal Policy Department had asked him to look in at his office to discuss a query unrelated to the morning’s business, and he walked unaccompanied. The meeting had produced the expected imposition of paperwork and as he cut through St James’s Park Underground station into Broadway he debated whether to return to his office and risk an afternoon of interruptions or to take the papers home to his Thames-side flat and work in peace.

There had been no smoking at the meeting but the room had seemed musty with spent breath and now he took pleasure in breathing fresh air, however briefly. It was a blustery day but unseasonably mild. The bunched clouds were tumbling across a sky of translucent blue and he could have imagined that this was spring except for the autumnal sea-tang of the river -- surely half imagined -- and the keenness of the buffeting wind as he came out of the station.

Seconds later he saw Conrad Ackroyd standing on the kerb at the corner of Dacre Street and glancing from left to right with that air of mingled anxiety and hope typical of a man waiting to hail a taxi. Almost immediately Ackroyd saw him and came towards him, both arms outstretched, his face beaming under a wide-brimmed hat. It was an encounter Dalgliesh couldn’t now avoid and had no real wish to. Few people were unwilling to see Conrad Ackroyd. His perpetual good humour, his interest in the minutiae of life, his love of gossip and above all his apparent agelessness were reassuring. He looked exactly the same now as he had when Dalgliesh and he had first met decades earlier. It was difficult to think of Ackroyd succumbing to serious illness or facing personal tragedy, while the news that he had died would have seemed to his friends a reversal of the natural order. Perhaps, thought Dalgliesh, that was the secret of his popularity; he gave his friends the comforting illusion that fate was beneficent. As always, he was dressed with an endearing eccentricity. The fedora hat was worn at a rakish angle, the stout little body was encased in a plaid tweed cloak patterned in purple and green. He was the only man Dalgliesh knew who wore spats. He was wearing them now.

‘Adam, lovely to see you. I wondered whether you might be in your office but I didn’t like to call. Too intimidating, my dear. I’m not sure they’d let me in, or if I’d get out if they did. I’ve been lunching at a hotel in Petty France with my brother. He comes to London once a year and always stays there. He’s a devout Roman Catholic and the hotel is convenient for Westminster Cathedral. They know him and are very tolerant.’

Tolerant of what? wondered Dalgliesh. And was Ackroyd referring to the hotel, the Cathedral, or both? He said, ‘I didn’t know you had a brother, Conrad.’

‘I hardly know it myself, we meet so seldom. He’s something of a recluse.’ He added, ‘He lives in Kidderminster,’ as if that fact explained all.

Dalgliesh was on the point of making tactful murmurings of imminent departure when his companion said, ‘I suppose, dear boy, I couldn’t bend you to my will? I want to spend a couple of hours at the Dupayne Museum in Hampstead. Why not join me? You know the Dupayne of course?’

‘I’ve heard of it but never visited.’

‘But you should, you should. It’s a fascinating place. Dedicated to the inter-war years, 1919—1938. Small but comprehensive. They have some good pictures: Nash, Wyndham Lewis, Ivon Hitchens, Ben Nicholson. You’d be particularly interested in the library. First editions and some holographs and, of course, the inter-war poets. Do come.’

‘Another time, perhaps.’

‘You never manage another time, do you? But now I’ve caught you, regard it as fate. I’m sure you have your Jag tucked up somewhere in the Met’s underground garage. We can drive.’

‘You mean I can drive.’

‘And you’ll come back to Swiss Cottage for tea, won’t you? Nellie will never forgive me if you don’t.’

‘How is Nellie?’

‘Bonny, thank you. Our doctor retired last month. After twenty years together it was a sad parting. Still, his successor seems to understand our constitutions and it might be as well to have a younger man.’

Conrad and Nellie Ackroyd’s marriage was so well established that few people now bothered to wonder at its incongruity or to indulge in prurient speculation about its possible consummation. Physically they could hardly have been more different. Conrad was plump, short and dark with inquisitive bright eyes and moved as sprightly as a dancer on small nimble feet. Nellie was at least three inches taller, pale-skinned and flat-chested, and wore her fading blonde hair curled in plaits on each side of her head like earphones. Her hobby was collecting first editions of 1920s and 1930s girls’ school stories. Her collection of Angela Brazils was regarded as unique. Conrad and Nellie’s enthusiasms were their house and garden, meals -- Nellie was a superb cook -- their two Siamese cats and the indulgence of Conrad’s mild hypochondria. Conrad still owned and edited The Paternoster Review, notable for the virulence of its unsigned reviews and articles. In private life he was the kindest of Jekylls, in his editorial role an unrepentant Hyde.

A number of his friends whose wilfully overburdened lives inhibited the enjoyment of all but necessary pleasures somehow found time to take afternoon tea with the Ackroyds in their neat Edwardian villa in Swiss Cottage with its comfortable sitting-room and atmosphere of timeless indulgence. Dalgliesh was occasionally among them. The meal was a nostalgic and unhurried ritual. The delicate cups with their handles aligned, the thin brown bread and butter, bite-size cucumber sandwiches and homemade sponge and fruit cakes made their expected appearance, brought in by an elderly maid who would have been a gift to a casting agent recruiting actors for an Edwardian soap opera. To older visitors the tea brought back memories of a more leisurely age and, to all, the temporary illusion that the dangerous world was as susceptible as was this domesticity to order, reason, comfort and peace. To spend the early evening gossiping with the Ackroyds would, today, be unduly self-indulgent. All the same, Dalgliesh could see that it wouldn’t be easy to find a valid excuse for refusing to drive his friend to Hampstead. He said, ‘I’ll drive you to the Dupayne with pleasure, but I might not be able to stay if you plan a long visit.’

‘Don’t worry, dear boy. I’ll get a cab back.’

Table of Contents

Reading Group Guide

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The Murder Room is James’s most suspenseful, atmospheric novel in years and has no shortage of surprise twists.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s discussion about P. D. James’s The Murder Room, a story that uncovers the dark places of the human mind and the passions that lead to murder.

1. Book One is dedicated to introducing a wide array of characters, all of whom are possible suspects in the murder of Neville Dupayne. Judging from the presentation of characters here, who seems most likely to be the killer, and why?

2. Conrad Ackroyd tells Adam Dalgliesh, “You should read detective fiction. . . . Real-life murder today, apart from being commonplace and—forgive me—a little vulgar, is inhibiting of the imagination” [p. 8]. What are the implications of this joke for the novel to follow?

3. Dalgliesh’s first visit to the museum just a week before the first murder, we are told, is “one of life’s bizarre coincidences which . . . never fail to surprise” [p. 3]. What other coincidences does James introduce either to complicate or resolve the plot?

4. Like many of James’s novels, The Murder Room demonstrates a detailed interest in architecture and in historic buildings. How do these settings focus the reader’s attention, and how do ideas about the city of London enrich the novel?

5. How is the plot revealed? How does James manipulate pacing to maximum effect? Which are the most suspenseful moments?

6. The Murder Room introduces several unhappy families—the Dupayne siblings, Tally Clutton and her daughter, Muriel Godby’s family, Neville Dupayne and his daughter, among others. To what extent do these families represent the ills of contemporary society? Or are they simply examples of unsentimental realism?

7. Adam Dalgliesh is in love: “He felt as vulnerable as a boy in love for the first time. . . . Somehow he had to find the courage to risk that rejection, to accept the momentous presumption that Emma might love him” [pp. 28–29]. In The Murder Room, the hero’s personal life impinges, to some degree, on his professional life. How is the love plot—Dalgliesh’s interest in Emma Lavenham and hers in him—incorporated into the mystery plot?

8. Tally Clutton clearly has a motive for murder. The reader knows that she didn’t do it; however, since she arrived at the museum just in time to witness Neville Dupayne’s death. How seriously is she considered a suspect by Dalgliesh and his team? If there is a single character at the novel’s moral center, is she the one? Is her near-death the climax of the plot?

9. How does the novel’s epigraph, from T. S. Eliot’s World War II poem “Burnt Norton,” resonate with the story? Does the epigraph suggest that James’s larger theme is that of time—or history—and identity?

10. As the plot proceeds, is it possible to guess or deduce the killer? If so, at what point is it possible, and on what grounds?

11. Conrad Ackroyd is writing a series of articles arguing, “Murder, the unique crime, is a paradigm of its age” [p. 7]. Do the events of the story bear out Ackroyd’s theory? Or does the novel seem to prove instead that murder is the result of human emotions—like rage, resentment, or jealousy—that don’t change over time?

12. P. D. James is unusually sensitive to the difficulties of finding love, particularly for women. In The Murder Room there are several unattached women, including Kate Miskin, Tally Clutton, Muriel Godby, and Caroline Dupayne. How accurately does the conversation between Emma and her friend Clara reflect these difficulties [pp. 47–48]? How realistic is James’s portrayal of the romantic struggles of her female protagonists?

13. In The Murder Room, it seems that the contemporary world, with its cell phones, traffic jams, and so on, is unsatisfactory and even dangerous. Early on, Dalgliesh muses that a lunch at the Ackroyds’ villa gives visitors “memories of a more leisurely age and . . . the temporary illusion that the dangerous world was as susceptible as was this domesticity to order, reason, comfort and peace” [p. 6]. In what ways does Adam Dalgliesh attempt to procure comfort and peace for himself? How does he react to the stress of his profession, and does he long for another kind of life?

14. Neville Dupayne wants to close the museum because he feels strongly that people are too obsessed with the past, and therefore they neglect the problems of the present [pp. 191–92]. Is Muriel Godby obsessed with the past? How does the novel’s conclusion fit into Neville and Muriel’s worldviews?

15. Many moments in The Murder Room recall the prominence of war in characters’ memories. Emma remembers walking with her nurse to a war memorial [p. 46], David Wilkins wants to own a painting of Passchendaele as a memorial to his grandfather [p. 250], Tally remembers the bombing raid that orphaned her [p. 49], and Dalgliesh remembers his family’s gardener’s stories about his service in World War I [p. 209]. What larger point is James making about the two world wars and their impact on English life?

16. Reflecting on the investigation, Kate Miskin thinks, “A single man had died and the squad would spend days, weeks, maybe longer deciding the how and why and who. This was murder, the unique crime. The cost of the investigation wouldn’t be counted. Even if they made no arrest, the file wouldn’t be closed. And yet at any minute terrorists might rain death on thousands” [p. 133]. Why is murder considered “the unique crime,” and why is the Murder Room the most visited exhibit in the museum? Is James suggesting that something about murder is particularly disturbing and provocative?

Introduction

NATIONAL BESTSELLER

The Murder Room is James’s most suspenseful, atmospheric novel in years and has no shortage of surprise twists.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, suggested reading list, and author biography that follow are intended to enhance your group’s discussion about P. D. James’s The Murder Room, a story that uncovers the dark places of the human mind and the passions that lead to murder.

Customer Reviews

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The Murder Room (Adam Dalgliesh Series #12) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 50 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a book you can take time with, you really get to know the characters, and the language is lovely.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a completely satisfying mystery. It kept me guessing until the end. The plot was well drawn out and characterization impeccable as usual. Ms. James seems to be getting better and better after all these years and that is saying something. I reccommend this book to those who want to be involved in first rate, intelligent mystery reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Dupayne Museum in Hampstead Heath, England provides a deep look at the country¿s culture during the two decades that separated the two world wars. However, the lease on the property is almost expired and renewal requires unanimous approval of the three trustees, the adult children of founder Max Dupayne. The museum¿s manager Marcus Dupayne and his sister Caroline (a school principal) endorse the renewal, but the third sibling psychiatrist Neville wants to shut down the museum.

However, Neville¿s nay saying comes to a quick end when someone kills him using the MO of a famous homicide depicted in the Dupayne Museum. His two siblings are not the only suspects because several people have the motive of keeping the Dupayne Museum open. A widower, Police Commander Adam Dalgliesh would prefer to investigate his growing fondness for Professor Emma Lavenham, but knows he and his Special Investigation Squad must conduct an official inquiry.

The latest Dalgliesh police procedural is a strong British investigative tale that readers of the series and fans of the sub-genre will take pleasure in due to a strong cast of suspects. The story line moves forward as the Commander and his team make inquiries into a host of potential culprits each with viable means, motives, and opportunities so that the audience never quite knows who the killer is until the climax. The romance subplot never takes off and consequently is not a distracter from the lead protagonist working the case and fans don¿t get to see him move forward in his personal life. P.D. James shows once again why she is one of grandmasters of the mystery novel.

Harriet Klausner

kalobo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reminded me of all the Agatha Christie's I read back in high school, though I found it a bit drier and lacking her humor.
beckyclayton on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the first of P.D. James' novels that I've read -- so I'm reviewing this as a newcomer to her writing and to the Dalgliesh series. That said, I'm not a newcomer to detective fiction, having read all of Sayers' work, most of Chandlers' and some Hammett too.James writes with an omniscient view of the characters in the story. There is a definite division to the psychological profiles and history of each character (revealed to the reader but not to Dalgliesh) and to the murder investigation itself (lead by Dalgliesh). I don't know whether she does this in all of her books, but in my experience, most detective fiction reads from the viewpoint of the detective: the reader knows as much as (or maybe even less) about the suspects than the detective, but rarely ever more. That said, I enjoyed the fresh perspective. James creates believable characters, and the pace of the story was just right. Some might find the pace a little slow -- the first murder doesn't happen until after page 100 -- but I found that the back story and lead-up to the murder was an interesting novella in its own right. I didn't guess the murderer, but then, I almost never do.
NellieMc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read all of the Adam Daigliesh mysteries in one fell swoop and am glad I did. First, they are classic British mysteries all well-deserving of the respect P.D. James has earned for them and all are a good read. However, what is interesting is to watch the author develop her style from the early ones to the later ones. And, in fact, A Shroud for a Nightingale and The Black Tower (the fourth and fifth in the series) is where she crosses the divide. The later books have much more character development -- both for the players and the detectives -- make Dalgleish more rounded and are generally much more than a good mystery yarn -- they're fine novels that happen to be mysteries. The first three books (Cover Her Face, A Mind to Murder, Unnatural Causes) are just that much more simplistic. But read any or all -- she's a great writer and they are definitely worth the time.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It has been many years since I have read a P.D. James mystery and I¿ve almost forgotten how much I enjoy her. Although it¿s probably not her best effort it still shows why James is tops in her field. She writes novels that are mysteries, rather than mystery novels. This story is about a museum whose focus in the inter war years (between WW I and WW II) which will continue its existence only if all three trustees, the surviving children of the founder, agree to sign the extension for the lease. One brother opposes doing this¿guess who gets killed! I did guess that before it happened (doh!) but I did not guess the killer until almost the very end. The title refers to an exhibit in the museum and the murderer sets up his crimes to look like murders that are depicted in the exhibit. I thought this created a clever atmosphere. Also in this book Dalgliesh has a ¿love interest¿ whom he met in the last novel. I just bought that one¿I seem to be reading the novels I¿ve missed in reverse order. There is at least one more¿just previous to one I bought yesterday¿which I haven¿t read. I¿d better savor these¿James is in her 90¿s now so there might not be many more to come in this series!
kdaugherty on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another great book by P.D. Jakes. She keeps you spellbound, guessing, and wanting to turn the pages. This book is a thriller that is hard to put down.
BudBarclay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Outstanding mystery by the indefagitable James. This one has quite a bit of suspense at the end. It makes you want to read every book in the series. This is my third and I plan to read them all.
JoAnnSmithAinsworth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Usually love her stories, but got bogged down in description and back story in this one.
mstrust on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dupayne Museum is situated right outside London and houses a collection of artifacts about the years in between WWI and WWII. It also contains The Murder Room, filled with evidence of the most famous murders of the era.The Dupayne children, all in their 40's-50's, have never loved each other or the father who founded the museum. When the lease on the property comes due, Neville announces that he has no intention of signing to keep the museum open and that he would rather see it close and be done with it. Guess who's the first to die?
bakersfieldbarbara on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
P.D. James has written another wonderful "Adam Dalgliesh Mystery" and we readers are the lucky ones, one more time. Ms. James seems to get better with age, and I was unable to stop reading this book until the end. A family is being torn apart by a decision of what to do with their late father's pride and joy, a museum of the dead. As Adam Dalgliesh does his best to solve the crimes being commited in the style of the Murder Room, Ms. James keeps us on our toes with her finely crafted prose, playful wit and keen eye for detail. Never pass up a chance to read a book written by Ms. James, but especially this latest, and as I find, her best.
liznightingale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good, easy read but now Adam D's greatest fan - bit dull!
EssFair on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good entry into the Dalgliesh series. Dalgliesh solves two murders originally linked by location only. In the process, he uncovers secrets his suspects would prefer to keep private. The solution is unexpected. One important sub-theme are passions that are kept hidden from others¿these include Adam¿s growing feelings for Emma
phoenixcomet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Neville DuPayne is murdered at the family museum which focuses on the inter-war years in Britain. Adam Dalgliesh is assigned the case for a speedy resolution. An engaging listen.
LaBibliophille on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
PD James has been writing mysteries featuring Adam Dalgliesh since 1962. She has managed to keep his image contemporary while maintaining his essential character. He is a detective with New Scotland Yard. In the earliest books, Dalgliesh was a Constable. He has risen through the ranks and is now a Commander, in charge of a unit which investigates cases of a sensitive nature, generally involving the wealthy and well-born. In each of the earlier books featuring Dalgliesh, James has doled out bits of personal information about him. Faithful readers by now have a good idea of the type of person he is. In addition to being handsome, he has had a number of books of poems published.The Murder Room concerns three murders which take place in a fictional London museum, The Dupayne. The museum is devoted to British history during the years between the two World Wars. One of the rooms in the museum is devoted to notorious murders that occurred in that timespan, hence the title of the book. The first victim is a trustee of the museum, Dr. Neville Dupayne. The other trustees are his siblings, and they disagree on the future of the museum.As with many good murder mysteries, there are connections between the characters (and they are all suspects) that don¿t become apparent until later on. And of course these connections are vital to the solution of the crimes.As much as I enjoy murder mysteries, I usually am not able to guess whodunit. However, this time I was able to figure it our fairly early on in the book (although I admit my reasoning was faulty). I still enjoyed reading this.Adam Dalgliseh fans who feel they have gotten to know and like him over the years will be pleased at the progression in his private life. This is quick, fun, easy read. Enjoy!
ct.bergeron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Dupayne, a small private mueseum in London devoted to the interwar years 1919-1939, is in turmoil. As its trustees argue over whether it should be closed, one of them is brutally and mysteriously murdered. yet even as Commander Adam Dalgliesh and his tema proceed with their investigations, a second corpse is discovered. Someone in the Dupayne is prepared to kill and kill again. Still more sinister, the murders appear to echo the notorious crimes of the past featured in one of the museum's galleries: The Murder Room. The case is fraught with danger and complication from the outset, but for Dalgliesh, the complications are unexpectedly profound. His new relationship with Emma Levenham is at a critical stage. Now, as he moves closer to a solution to the puzzle, he finds himself driven farther and farther from commitment to the woman he loves.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
That last bit is going a bit far. First, it wasn¿t a struggle, Dalgliesh, Kate and Piers all figured out who it was early on, but had to get evidence that would stand up in court. Secondly, it¿s hardly true that the case kept him from commitment. It kept him from his date but not his commitment to her or his feelings for her. I believe the days of Adam as bachelor are numbered. I¿m a bit sad about this. His emotional distance and solitude added mystery and strength to his character. He wasn¿t like the rest of us who crave company and affirmation and love. He was strong and didn¿t need it. Now we find out he does indeed have feet of clay. I was a bit disappointed at the ending ¿ it was a typical happy ending with the two lovers meeting on a train platform and then going off together. The joy and affection were noticeably restrained, but other than that it was commonplace.
ImBookingIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really want to be able to give 1/2 stars. I enjoyed this more than the large number of books I've read recently and given 3 stars, but not as much as the 4 star books.For me, this book was a somewhat uneven listen. Parts of it were quite compelling, and other parts were not keeping my attention. I actually started listening 3 times, this time I stuck with it.I enjoyed the characters, although there were too many that had brief portraits and were wallpaper the rest of the time.The plot had its ups and downs as well. The ending of the mystery didn't quite come together for me.Not one of P.D. James' best works, but not bad, either.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Since this was an audio book, I'll review the narrator first, Charles Keating. He was a superb reader. I enjoyed every voice and intonation. I will be looking for other audio books read by him.The mystery was good, as always with P. D. James. It takes place in a museum focused on the time between the two great wars. James develops her characters in an interesting way. It is not easy to guess the suspect because all of the characters are empathetic, all of them have not much to lose. So, there are no cheats. She really is very good about writing individuals. I'm not entirely satisfied with the motives or means in this book, but by the end, the murders just aren't very important. Mostly you want to keep reading about the people.
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