The Murder Room
Commander Adam Dalgliesh is persuaded by an eccentric friend, Conrad Ackroyd, to visit the Dupayne Museum, dedicated to the “between the Wars” years, 1919-1938. Conrad is researching the high-profile murder cases from that era showcased in a section called the “Murder Room.” He believes types of murders are an indication of the eras in which they occur. A week later Dalgliesh is back at the museum, this time to investigate the murder of one of the three Dupayne siblings who own it, and more murder and mayhem follows.
P. D. James has received many honors for her impressive series featuring Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, and The Murder Room is a finely crafted example of why she is often called England’s “Queen of Crime.” The mystery follows a classic “locked room” plot, with a limited number of suspects, all of whom have interlocking connections with the others. The museum near Hampstead Heath is fictitious, but the cases featured in the “Murder Room” are actual historical crimes, and the novel often offers philosophical commentary about murder and the relationship between detective fiction and true crime. The story takes place during two weeks in 2002 and tracks the daily activities of Commander Dalgliesh, Detective Inspector Kate Miskin, and two other Yard investigators. In the process, the novel provides a searing assessment of housing in different areas of contemporary London and the “unbridgeable gulf” between economic classes. There is a classic “did you spot the clue?” ending, but with some other surprises as well, including a major development in Dalgliesh’s personal life.
P. D. James celebrated her eightieth birthday in 2000 when she published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. It is always time for another Dalgliesh novel, as The Murder Room amply demonstrates.
Booklist 100, no. 2 (September 15, 2003): 180.
Kirkus Reviews 71, no. 16 (August 15, 2003): 1048.
Library Journal 128, no. 16 (October 1, 2003): 122.
New Statesman 16, no. 4648 (July 28, 2003): 38-39.
The New York Times Book Review, December 7, 2003, p. 43.
Publishers Weekly 250, no. 37 (September 15, 2003): 47.
The Spectator, June 21, 2003, p. 59.
The Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2003, p. W4.