I've been working my way through the Adam Dalgliesh series for the past two years. And, it is no surprise that I am not done yet since P.D. James has written fourteen novels about the New Scotland Yard detective. I recently finished book number twelve, which is called The Murder Room. In Adam Dalgliesh, James has created a truly complex character with an intricate and compelling backstory that has made this series interesting to work through. Dalgliesh is not only a detective in New Scotland Yard, but also a published poet, a combination that perplexes many who meet him. He essentially deals with death during the day, and writes poetic verse in his spare time. He is an intensely cerebral and private person with a tragic past that includes the loss of his wife and only child, both dying during childbirth.
In The Murder Room, Dalgliesh holds the rank of Commander in the Metropolitan Police Force, and heads a special team that focuses on particularly sensitive crimes. The book takes place in London, specifically around the Dupayne Museum on the edge of Hampstead Heath in the Borough of Camden. The Museum, owned and run by three bickering siblings, becomes the scene of a gruesome murder when one of three siblings, Neville Dupayne, is found dead. Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate.
One of the things that I have enjoyed about this book, and the entire Dalgliesh series for that matter, is the way that P.D. James builds the reader up to the first, and there are usually more than one, murder. She takes her time in introducing each character, showing the way that each of their lives interweaves with that of the others. She gives us insight to each individual's insecurities and daily struggles. In the case of The Murder Room, the actual first murder doesn't even take place until almost a third of the way through the book. But, the lengthy introduction doesn't slow the book down in any way. If anything, it helps to draw the reader into the emotional turmoil felt by the characters once the first murder is discovered.
The beauty of the entire series is that it is not necessary to read the earlier books to enjoy this one. James does a fine job of ensuring that the reader doesn't feel like they are missing any subplots that cross multiple books. I will say, however, that I think I have enjoyed The Murder Room more because I have read the books in the series in order from the start. Not that you have to, but some of my enjoyment has come from watching as Adam Dalgliesh rises through the ranks at New Scotland Yard.
All in all, this was an enjoyable read. It was not the best of the series, but it was definitely in the top four. If you are looking to start the series from the beginning, grab a copy of Cover Her Face. But, by all means, don't feel pressured to start at the beginning. The Murder Room stands quite well on its own.