Adam Dalgliesh, the protagonist, chief superintendent of New Scotland Yard. He is as renowned for remaining dispassionate as for solving cases rapidly. A reserved, introspective man who has published two books of poetry, he nevertheless insists that all considerations of privacy must cede before a criminal investigation. His moral indignation over murder does not undermine either his judicious examination of witnesses and evidence or his confident bearing in the alien world of John Carpendar Hospital. Eventually, weakened but undeterred by a serious head wound received in an ambush, Dalgliesh confronts the nurse he believes to be guilty, even without proof. The end of the case leaves him disheartened rather than triumphant.
Charles Masterson, Dalgliesh’s handsome subordinate, a complacent and ambitious detective sergeant who resents his superior’s self-discipline and aloofness. Crassly calculating in his sexual pursuit of Julia Pardoe, one of the nurses, he also earns Dalgliesh’s reproof for cruelty toward an elderly female witness he interviews in London. Masterson ably backs up Dalgliesh, whose experience and intuition win his grudging respect.
Mary Taylor, the matron of John Carpendar Hospital’s nurse training school. Enjoying the same confidence and excellent reputation in her field as Dalgliesh does in his, the attractive Mary...
(The entire section is 563 words.)