This is the first PD James novel, and by way of that fact, the first of the Adam Dalgliesh detective series. This is from an omnibus collection that also collect the second novel in the series A Mind to Murder, which I read a few months ago, and a later novel Shroud for a Nightingale. In the introduction to the collection James talks about why she chose these three novels: the first because she was able to produce a novel she felt worthy of publication, the second because it proved the first was not a fluke, and the third because she likes it so much.
This novel in a lot of ways does in fact argue for her worth. I do think it’s stronger than the second book (longer by a quarter length) and really spends some time investigating the motives, the actions, the curiosities, and the deceptions of the various characters. It has incredible patience to wait and wait and wait to finally bring in the investigative team. And for all the talk about Adam Dalgliesh being a poet, something James herself brings up in her introduction, it’s barely mentioned, and not dealt with at all. I think I like that too.
The mystery involves the death of a young domestic worker Sally Jupp, who may or may not have been engaged to the young heir of a small fortune and title, after she or may not have told him she was pregnant with his child. The family becomes the sight of controversy, denies any knowledge of the crime, and of course has secrets for days.