Posted in 20 Books of Summer 2015!, Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The Lighthouse – P.D. James #20BooksofSummer

Crime Fiction

One of my favourite tropes in mystery novels one where there is a limited number of suspects. This is quite hard to make believable even in times gone by, but in more modern settings it has to be a challenge to have a cast iron setting. One of the only reasonable places for this set-up has to be an island which no-one can get to, and of course no-one can leave. P.D. James has therefore sensibly chosen the secluded island of Combe off the coast of Cornwall. Even better this island is used as a retreat for under-pressure men and women, only those of the better classes need apply of course.

At the time of the unexplained death on the island was preparing for some very important guests and so the murder needs the brightest and the best to investigate, so that would be Commander Adam Dalgliesh, DI Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith. They all drop there current work and hurry to the island.

In the best traditions of this kind of murder mystery is that the dead person wasn’t exactly a likeable person. I say the best tradition because it is far easier to read about murder when there is a part of you that can’t help feel that it isn’t any great loss to the world. This way you can concentrate on helping the police from the side-lines without any emotional involvement wasted.

I’ve always enjoyed reading P.D. James’s novels and this one was no exception, the plotting was brilliant with many of the limited number of suspects having a reason to what the victim bumped off, it wasn’t at all easy to detect who the perpetrator was with my thoughts changing as the story progressed.

The characters are predictably an unusual bunch and most of them quite frankly not the kind you would invite around for dinner, but they were distinct with some depth and of course their own motivation for wanting the victim dead, but being unlikable doesn’t mean they are killers.

So onto the setting, an island complete with all the features of island life. The reliance on being able to escape is dependent on the tides, the visibility through the continual threat of mist and fog and of course not forgetting the main feature the lighthouse which despite being on the coast, holds centre stage within the book itself.

This book was written in 2005 and features the SARS which was the health scare of this time, being a highly infectious respiratory disease and it is worth noting that the author was the grand age of 84 at the time it was written. It did become fashionable to say that the latter books lack the originality of those written earlier but having read this one and comparing it to modern crime writers I am moved to say, I like the certain old-fashioned feel, and find some of the author’s attempt to modernise the writing more jarring than when she followed her heart and wrote to a plot that is tried and tested with her own twists which are devious and clever. The Lighthouse is the 13th out of 14 in the Adam Dalgliesh series

The Lighthouse is my eleventh read in my 20 Books for Summer 2018 Challenge and one that took me back to an author who became a firm favourite at the start of my foray into crime fiction.

First Published UK: 2005
Publisher: Faber & Faber
No of Pages: 480
Genre: Crime Fiction – Series
Amazon UK
Amazon US


A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

15 thoughts on “The Lighthouse – P.D. James #20BooksofSummer

  1. I love P D James. The setting is a bit similar to And then there were None by Christie. Dalgliesh has always been one of my favourite crime solvers although I’m not sure you could get away with a poet-detective these days!


  2. Great review!
    I’ve read a few P.D James books, but i think not in order. Hard to tell sometimes cuz i read the translated versions and sometimes they change the titles so much (and don’t include the original title anywhere), but this doesn’t sound familiar.
    Will have to check it out 😀


  3. Glad you enjoyed it Cleo. P.D. James has never failed to delight me with her writing. I’ve loved most all of her novels. Some readers (according to my book club) find her writing too verbose and descriptive. For me however, she is perfect.


  4. James was so good at setting the scene for stories, wasn’t she, Cleo? And an island is a great setting for this story. I like the way she developed her characters, too, which she had the ‘room’ to do, since there aren’t that many of them in this novel. So glad you enjoyed this!


  5. Shall I start out by saying that I’ve not ever read a book by P.D. James? Shameful, I know. However, as this is sort of a ‘locked room’ mystery, I think I could likely read it out of order and all alone. The lighthouse, Cornwall, locked room/island – lovely! Think I’ll check with my library. Then I could say, of course I’ve read P.D. James. Ha!


  6. Glad you enjoyed this! I loved PD James for years too, and then gradually got a bit tired of them. I know I must have read this because I read all her books, but it’s not ringing many bells. Maybe it’s time for a re-read and to see if enough time has passed to revive my enthusiasm – she gave me a lot of pleasure in my earlier years, and kind of bridged the gap between golden age and contemporary crime for me…


  7. When the author can keep me guessing with only a small cast of suspects, that’s a win. And having them in an oslated setting just adds to the suspense. This sounds like a good one for me!


  8. This does sound old-fashioned, and for that reason, it appeals! I’ve never read PD James (shocking I know) so this may be a good place for me to start, without the expectation from her earlier work.


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