In P. D. James's A Taste for Death, why does Dominic Swayne kill Kate Miskin's grandmother?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In P. D. James's novel A Taste for Death, the murderer of Sir Paul Berowne also winds up killing Detective Kate Miskin's grandmother, partially accidentally and partially out of a larger plot to escape jurisdiction. In the chapter titled "Mortal Consequences," we learn that while Kate was out grocery shopping for her grandmother after bringing her home to live, the murderer easily found Kate's residence in the phonebook and easily convinced her grandmother to let him in by posing as Chief Inspector Massingham. Once in, he helps himself to the liquor cabinet and also takes her grandmother captive, holding a gun to her head. When Kate returns home and asks him what he wants, he says that he is getting out of England to escape to Spain and that Kate is going to help him get there; he says she is going to drive him to Chichester harbour where he is going to set sail for Spain on the Mayflower.

As a means of distracting him until she can either signal for help or get the situation under control herself, Kate says she refuses to drive him until the roads were clear. She even convinces him that the police won't be looking for him just yet and tries to convince him that bringing her grandmother with a gun held to her head will only hinder him, as we see in the passage:

They won't be looking for anyone yet, button or no button. Not unless they've found the priest or know that you've got the gun. As far as the police know, there's no hurry. They don't even know that you've found out about the button. If we're going to get well away fast and unnoticed, we have to have a clear drive to Chichester. And there's no point in carting along my grandmother. She'll only be a hindrance.

She also starts making spaghetti bolognese as a further means of distracting him. After the chapter progresses, she finally spies her moment to catch him off guard and attack him. She was able to knock the gun out of his hand but was unfortunately unable to reach it in time, resulting in her grandmother's tragic death.

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avanrees's profile pic

avanrees | eNotes Newbie

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The idea of explaining the murder mystery "Taste for Death" by injecting irrasable "other things to do" - like paying more money for something - is untenable and spoils the whole idea of a good workable and interesting site which a reader can enjoy. An enthusiastic reader comes to this part, expecting further understanding of a terrific story by PD James,  and finding' after all, more of the same old jackals of recent TV that would prefer to have 24/7 advertisements to interesting entertainment fare. like me, they drop off like autumn leaves and return to listening and reading books.

AVR

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