Cover Her Face

Cover Her Face by P.D. James

In this mystery novel, Mrs. Maxie, the matriarch of Martingale, hires a young single mother to help care for her invalid husband. Sally manages to alienate everyone in the household, so when she is found strangled in her bed there is plenty of reason to suspect all of them. Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh arrives on the scene to investigate and the interrogations reveal secrets, putting further strain on already rocky relationships.  

The novel is structured in a way similar to Agatha Christie's in that it builds up to a final scene where, after the detective has figured everything out - but hasn't yet revealed to the reader what he knows - he calls everyone together and tells them exactly what happened. He explains the course of events leading up to the murder and then declares one them them guilty. I'm not a great fan of that style but I don't think it's enough to keep me from reading more of them. 

It's a good story, with flaws. For a mystery there isn't much intrigue, so it's not what you'd call a page-turner. And there were so many characters introduced right off the bat that I had to use a list to keep up - a whole raft of them and none at all likeable. I might have liked Dalgliesh if I'd learned anything about him but he's almost a minor character in this one. Granted this in only the first in a series of fourteen based on the detective and his cases but it would have been nice to get to know him a little better. 

On the other hand, the good writing made the flaws seem less important. Her phrasing, command of the language, and the slight edge to some of the dialogue all made for good reading. I admire the way she can, in half a dozen words, clearly make a point that I'd still be fumbling to explain after thirty. And I love the Britishness of it all, enough to try at least the next couple of books in the series.   


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