Well this series definitely intrigues me. I ended up reading a short story starring this character last year or the year before for Festive Tasks and then I ended up trying to start a stand alone with him and didn’t realize it wasn’t the first book. So I put it away and forget about reading this series until now. I have to say that P.D. James does a great job with all of the characters that are introduced, but the book starts off very slowly. It reminds me of some of Agatha Christie works, especially with a main character (Adam Dalgliesh) rounding up all of the suspects and explaining everything and revealing the murderer. I do like books that take place after World War II. You get to see an England that is still unsure of what direction it will go. We have some prejudices here that leak out when anyone discusses the murder victim.
“Cover Her Face” is the first book introducing Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard. The book starts off though following the Maxie family, their friends, and servants. The matriarch of the family hires a young unmarried single mother named Sally Jupp to help with Mrs. Maxie’s bedridden husband. Some of the family members get a glimpse here and there of Sally’s true nature (she seems sly and also full of malice towards Mrs. Maxie’s daughter Deborah and seems to be flirting or something else with her son, Stephen). After the local fete though, Sally announces that Stephen Maxie has proposed to her. The following morning when they are unable to waken her, and realizing that the bedroom door is barred, Stephen and a friend of Deborah, Felix, climb through a window and find that Sally has been strangled. Then enters Dalgliesh who methodically questions every member of the household and then even the local doctor, vicar, and the previous employers and family members of Sally.
I thought that Dalgliesh at times was a bit too cold. We are given bare bone facts about him, but I wanted more. The Maxie family and their friends were interesting. We get some details on their loyal servant Martha, a woman who believes she has an understanding with Stephen Maxie, Catherine Bowers. And a man who hopes to marry Deborah, Felix Hearne.
I think we jumped around a bit too much to get a handle on everyone. We are given glimpses of people here and there, but there are too many things left dangling for me as a reader. For example, there is enough said about Stephen Maxie that I wonder if he is being portrayed as asexual or not. Another example is the character of Felix, we find out that is on edge being around any type of police, but I wouldn’t consider the Gestapo and Scotland Yard along the same lines. So there were just things like that which confused me a bit while reading.
The flow of the book takes a long while to get going. I think that James wanted to make sure she set the scene, but it takes it a long while to get going and I was confused about who was who at first.
The setting of a post War World II England (this takes place in the 1960s) was interesting. You definitely get a sense that the Maxie and others see themselves as higher class based on previous riches the family experienced. However, you can see that the family is barely supporting itself and you have some characters slamming death duties.
The ending leaves a surprising romantic opening for Dalgliesh.