Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The title Death in Holy Orders refers directly to the mystery setting, the isolated and very traditional Protestant theological seminary of St. Anselms, on the bleak East Anglian coast. The seminary is the scene of the unexplained death of a troubled young ordinand and the later murder of a self-righteous archbishop, who was determined to close down the establishment as archaic and redundant and sell its valuable artworks and relics. Both of the dead are in Holy Orders, and every clue that Inspector Dalgliesh and his London team uncover suggests an insider at work, wearing a seminarian’s cloak, opening doors with keys left in-house, and acting in times and places that require local knowledge of schedules and habits.
For Dalgliesh, the setting holds special meaning, since he spent part of his youth there. He experiences a deep nostalgia for those summer days, rediscovers close ties to the former warden, the elderly and devout Father Martin, and finds peace and rest in this place. Thus, he feels comfortable asking questions about the troubled youth who perished beneath a sudden fall of sand from the cliff above him. James introduces the players, the conflicts, the relationships, and the building tensions with Dalgliesh on the spot observing, rather than coming in after murder has been clearly committed. Amid talk of religious art and of the controversy surrounding a papyrus fragment that could shake the foundations of Christianity, Dalgliesh suddenly...
(The entire section is 544 words.)
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