Detective and mystery stories. A piercing scream, shattering the evening calm, brings Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh hurrying from his literary party to the nearby Steen Psychiatric Clinic, where he discovers the body of a woman sprawled on the basement floor, a chisel thrust through her heart. As Dalgliesh probes beneath the apparently unruffled calm of the clinic, he discovers that many an intrigue lies hidden behind the Georgian terrace's unassuming facade. Professionally, he has never known the taste of failure. Now, for the first time, he feels unsure of his own mastery as he battles to unmask a cool killer who is proving to be his intellectual equal and who is poised to strike again.
brief summary, no spoilers
The scene of the crime is the Steen psychiatric clinic, and the victim is the administrative head of the place, a miss Bolam. She is killed in the records room with a chisel through her heart. Dalgliesh draws this case and he sets out to investigate. As usual, a fairly decent amount of red herrings and suspects with motives keeps the story interesting.
This book is a bit dated, obviously. Consider that electro-shock therapy was used here as well as the administration of lysergic acid (yup, good old LSD) to get people to "loosen up" and shed their inhibitions so that the doctors could get to the roots of their problems. Hmmm.
Not a bad read, and I would recommend it to people who read British mysteries, or to those who are wondering whether or not to follow the Dalgliesh series.
The adminsitrative officer for a private psychiatric clinic is found murdered in the file room, and clearly one of the staff is the guilty party. Dalgliesh and his able assistant Martin investigate over the course of a few days and eventually catch the murderer. The story is told in third person, mostly from Dalgliesh's perspective, though it also switched at least once to each of the potential suspects, and some more than others. It did keep me guessing up until the end, so that's pretty good (not that I'm necessarily any great shakes at figuring out the mystery ahead of the protagonist).
There's some effort to develop Dalgliesh as a character, clearly building upon the earlier book, but I didn't really connect with him or any of the other characters, since none of the characterizations felt particularly deep or personal. And frankly, most of the characters just weren't very likable, so I was fine when the story ended. Why would I spend my time with people I don't really like, after all? It was moderately entertaining and a quick read. And not being a completely predictable plot with predictable villain is a plus. I won't be keeping this, but I didn't consider it a complete waste of time.
The Office Manager of a posh clinic gets herself brutally murdered in its basement and suspects abound as Dalgleish works to peel away the layers of semi-truth and falsehoods that surround the setting, the victim, and her co-workers.
You can see the debt James owes Marsh here, as Adam uncharacteristically works with a bluff second-in-command a.la Mr. Fox, but the plotting is strong and the pacing good. Although the characters may now seem somewhat stereotypical, this 50-year-old mystery still holds up, with nicely interwoven subplots and numerous twists. And the ending is terrific, with several switches when you least expect it, and one that you do, but it leads to something else you hadn't considered...
Marsden’s reading is a bit awkward, and he mixes up characters’ voices, but for me he *is* Adam, and at this time was hugely popular, recording this at about the same time they made the TV version. He acts far better than he reads IMO.
This one had a lot of introspection, not bad but it's not my favourite of hers. It wasn't bad but it was vaguely unstatisfying.
I noted with great delight that the action of this book takes place mostly in the Steen clinic, which caters to rich, upper-class patients with socially unacceptable problems such as failing marriages and Undiscussable Things (I suspect one of the Things is homosexuality, which was still a criminal offense in England back in 1963). Cures are effected by such means as electroshock therapy and doses of LSD, causing the patients such distress that they scream, and everyone seems to think that’s quite OK and normal. How antiquated it all sounds, and how happy I am that those days are gone.
The clinic is kept running smoothly by Miss Bolam, whom nobody particularly likes. In the last book, Cover Her Face, James also had a murder victim whom nobody particularly liked, and I do hope she doesn’t overuse this method of ensuring lots of potential suspects. Adam Dalgliesh is the man to work his way through the list of possible murderers, and we learn a little more about him—that’s he’s a moderately successful poet on the side, that he still has a thing for Deborah Risko, a suspect from the first book, and that his wife died. All in the cause of making him a little more three-dimensional, but only, really, a little bit more. As a man he just doesn’t float my boat, which is a shame because it helps to fall for the detective as you read through the series.
The suspects are a bit more convincingly sketched in this time, and the slow unfolding of motives and backstory is reasonably entertaining, but it’s not yet P.D. James at her best. There’s a twist, but I ended up being a bit meh about the whole business of who actually killed Miss Bolam. I found myself psychoanalyzing James instead—hmm, another plot line involving a lower-class girl who’s no better than she should be. Hmmm, more snobbery. Hmmmmmmmmm, a suggestion that the single life can, despite all appearances (and contrary to what women were told in James’s day) be more fulfilling than marriage and motherhood. I’m starting to picture James as having clawed her way upward despite all odds, because there’s nothing more snobbish than the ambitious lower orders.
Is there a biographer in the house? I see that James has written an autobiography, but that no biography has as yet been written. I begin to suspect that it might be worth the telling, and have put the autobiography on my TBR.
This is an engaging, interesting and complex murder mystery. I love Dalgliesh and his quiet, deliberate manner. I also really appreciate how James gives us background detail on the characters, revealing a little at a time, much as we’d learn about someone in real life.
James crafts a plot that seems straightforward, but which includes numerous red herrings to keep the reader off balance. She certainly had me guessing, and even when Dalgliesh was closing in on the suspect, the author had another surprise in store. Well done!
This story is psychologically very skillful and let me guess for a long time, who the villain is.
I'd definitely recommend the author for serious mystery fans.
On the surface, the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is one of the most reputable institutions in London. But when the administrative head is found dead with a chisel in her heart, that distinguished facade begins to crumble as the truth emerges. Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate and quickly finds himself caught in a whirlwind of psychiatry, drugs, and deceit. Now he must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts has resulted in murder and stop a cunning killer before the next blow.
In A Mind to Murder, James chooses a psychiatric clinic to set her murder and mayhem in. There are plenty of suspects, plenty of motives, and lots of red herrings. The ending is especially amazing--I don't want to give anything away, but trust me, James is masterful with the plot twists.
A Mind to Murder is a classic "locked room" mystery. The events primarily take place at a Psychology clinic called The Steen where the Administrative Officer has been murdered. When the police arrive, led by Superintendent Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, they quickly determine that it was not possible for the murderer to have made an escape, so the killer is still there as they conduct their interviews. Dalgliesh quickly rules out the patients to the clinic, especially the one currently under going treatment with lysergic acid (LSD), and the investigation focuses on the doctors, nurses, porters, and other staff of The Steen. With great care P.D. James leaves clues spread throughout the narrative and leads the reader on a few dead ends and offers up some red herrings. Even the great detective is initially misled, though his energies help uncover a blackmailer at The Steen in addition to a murderer.
A Mind to Murder is a slow-paced, thinking mystery. There is little action, certainly not to the extent of what today's crime writers dole out. But that makes this an enjoyable book. The slower pace allows the reader to digest the clues and information the author provides and we are allowed to partake of the investigation and draw our own conclusions without having to worry about the next gun fight or tight squeeze the killer has planned for the detective. The pace, focus on the crime and investigation, and length of the story (more novella than novel) also means there is not a lot of character development. We know a bit about Superintendent Dalgliesh - that he's a writer of poetry, and he's had a book of poetry published, and that his is nervous about asking out a woman he fancies. But beyond that we know little about Dalgliesh and what drives him. We know almost nothing about his partner (he often fades from few in some of the scenes he is in) and we tend to know more about the suspects under investigation. All of that is probably more a factor of when the book was originally published rather than any 'fault' of the author. (Heh - look at my presumption, trying to claim that P.D. James would have a fault - she's one of the greats of crime fiction!)
Overall I enjoyed the story. It's slower pace, and lack of action might turn off other readers, but I enjoyed being able to get into the heads of the different suspects and understand their motivations. It was also fascinating to see into an earlier time, where the theft of 15 Quid (Pounds) was a big deal. So very different from today. I recommend it only if you want a slower, more languid pace, and are not adverse to a lack of action or pronounced character development.
The narration was well done, though Marsden's pronunciation made me think he was saying "The Steam" clinic, rather than The Steen. But maybe I just need to clean my ears out. I enjoy Marsden in his other narrations, and he did a wonderful job of bringing this story to life.
Is it her sister who resents her wealth? Is the porter who seems to have many things on the go including love affairs with two women employees the killer? Or one of the doctors? James throws out hints and clues that put almost all the characters under suspicion.
The text is full of quaint English expressions. For example, do you know what a water stoup is?