PD James – Death in Holy Orders

death in holy orders

Read May 2014

It’s an ITV drama! In fact, I think it might have been!

This is a classic middle England detective story. An isolated Church of England retreat house with a small number of trainee clergy is the scene. First a trainee commits suicide and then, when a senior clergy person visits with news that it must be closed, he is murdered. A number of other murders follow, apparently to cover up the first.
A senior Scotland Yard inspector, Dalgleish (the protagonist of many PD James novels), knows the place from his youth and so agrees to visit. Eventually it transpires that the murderer is one of the senior clergy there who has a secret adopted son who will benefit from the centre’s swift closure.

It’s quite a gripping book but left me a little cold: not only didn’t I care about the people (that’s hardly a requisite of a good book) but I couldn’t relate to the whole set-up. It felt far-fetched, fabricated and like the book was giving us an upper middle class rural England that never existed before telling us that morally there’s something very wrong with it. Zizek would have a field day!


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