A mind to murder

by P. D. James

Paperback, 2001




New York : Scribner Paperback Fiction, 2001.


Adam Dalgluish was called to the elegant Steen Psychiatric Clinic to investigate why the body of Enid Bolan was found with a chisel through her heart.

User reviews

LibraryThing member KayCliff
In A Mind to Murder the medical clinic’s diagnostic index serves as ‘a neatly contrived apparatus for the pre-selection of a [blackmail] victim’. As a chief purpose of indexes is information retrieval, such systems figure in much detective fiction, as crime-solvers seek facts through various schemes. ‘It is hardly surprising that those who devise sealed-room mysteries and Means-Motive-Opportunity charts are often aware of that perfect analytic/synthetic gadget: the card-index, and its offshoots’.… (more)
LibraryThing member bcquinnsmom
not nearly as enjoyable (imho) as "Cover Her Face," but still an okay read. I've noticed in these two that while Dalgliesh gets onto a certain clue that sends him right to the murderer, there really isn't much here about investigative technique or something that he does especially to solve the crime. Oh well.

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.
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LibraryThing member justchris
[A Mind to Murder] is my first [[P. D. James]] novel, apparently the second in the series featuring Inspector Adam Dalgliesh. I've seen a few Mystery! productions adapted from the books and enjoyed them.

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.
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LibraryThing member NellieMc
I decided to read all of the Adam Daigliesh mysteries in one fell swoop and am glad I did. First, they are classic British mysteries all well-deserving of the respect P.D. James has earned for them and all are a good read. However, what is interesting is to watch the author develop her style from the early ones to the later ones. And, in fact, A Shroud for a Nightingale and The Black Tower (the fourth and fifth in the series) is where she crosses the divide. The later books have much more character development -- both for the players and the detectives -- make Dalgleish more rounded and are generally much more than a good mystery yarn -- they're fine novels that happen to be mysteries. The first three books (Cover Her Face, A Mind to Murder, Unnatural Causes) are just that much more simplistic. But read any or all -- she's a great writer and they are definitely worth the time.… (more)
LibraryThing member wyvernfriend
Inspector Dalgliesh's poetry book launch is interrupted by a murder. He has to investigate the murder of the office manager of a psychiatric clinic. As he digs he finds undercurrents that will not only change the outcome but also the lives of most of the people involved.

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member BooksForDinner
The second PD James Dalgliesh mystery, and the second I've read now. The first was overly plot-driven with very little development of Dalgliesh, but I you can feel in this second of his books that the character is coming to life. You learn a little more about his late wife, you learn he is a published poet, etc... I enjoyed this book very much. Solid plotting, an interesting group of suspects, a nice twist at the end, all the rules of fair play adhered to, plenty of clues. I'm just terrible at figuring out who done it; really, I'm not trying all that hard.I have heard from more than one person that her more recent books are long, plodding, ponderous character studies where you are treated to 100 pages of back-story and development before Dalgliesh even arrives on stage, but these first two books were written closing in on 50 years ago; her writing certainly hadn't developed to that level yet.I think that I will continue to read this series in order to see how she AND her character develops. Quite a fine mystery!… (more)
LibraryThing member chicjohn
Another really good read
LibraryThing member thorold
Very early P.D. James. Interesting background on health service administration, a murder victim who sounds suspiciously like a self-parody, but the crime story itself is rather dull. I keep on reading P.D. James despite the fact that I can't work up any interest in Dalgliesh as a detective: I think it must be because she's so good at putting together a convincing group of minor characters and teasing out their interrelationships.… (more)
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
A clever, enjoyable mystery, and also a rather quick read. In terms of character development and intricacy of plot, I didn't like it as well as some of James' other mysteries, but it was satisfying and kept me guessing until the end.
LibraryThing member Abbess
1963, #2 Inspector Adam Dalgleish, a psychiatric clinic, London; classic police procedural, still entertaining, narration pretty good. This reread via Overdrive - 1985, Chivers Audio Books, read by Roy Marsden
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.
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LibraryThing member bsquaredinoz
One of the earlier Dalgleish stories and not particularly riveting.
LibraryThing member raschneid
Not quite the beginning of the series, but I am surely one of the only people in the universe who reads mystery novels in publication order. Cheesy title and only moderately interesting characters, but this book excelled in plotting. It had a GREAT, creepy, plot-twisty third act, which is exactly what you want in a mystery novel (and so rare in other fiction).… (more)
LibraryThing member Jcambridge
OK as a vacation read, but not as good as other PD James novels. If you like Dalgliesh, give it a read.
LibraryThing member bookwoman247
This mystery about a murder at a psychiatric clinic was very well-written.

I'd definitely recommend the author for serious mystery fans.
LibraryThing member Miguelnunonave
Nice murder mystery, though I suspect not the author's best. A bit outdated.
LibraryThing member JaneSteen
Where I got the book: audiobook on Audible. Read by Penelope Dellaporta in a terribly refined voice with a few character accents

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.
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LibraryThing member sbsolter
Another delightful, tightly woven, and well-written murder mystery by P. D. James.
LibraryThing member 26kathryn
An enjoyable mystery story. As expected from P.D. James, it was a well thought out story that kept me guessing until the end.
LibraryThing member jeffome
Modest mystery book about the murder of an office manager in an outpatient psychiatric clinic in London.....Dalgliesh as always, plods slowly forward to determine the guilty party......not the fastest moving book I've read, and i personally struggled to keep the characters straight.....not very exciting but with enough little surprises to keep my interest. This is my second P.D. James and i will be hopeful that she dusted herself off after this one and upped her game.… (more)
LibraryThing member BookConcierge
From the Book Jacket - When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts resulted in murder.

My Reactions
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!
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LibraryThing member Ameise1
Another good cozy mystery from the Adam Dalgliesh series. This time, the majority of everything takes place in one place namely the Steen Psychiatric Clinic. Miss Bolam the administrative officer is found dead in the archive. She was not very popular and therefore everyone had something to hide. Dalgliesh's job is to filter out all the negative emotions everyone has, so that he finds the essence. In this commissioner coincidence helps to put things into perspective. Dalgliesh has to hurry to prevent another murder from happening.
This story is psychologically very skillful and let me guess for a long time, who the villain is.
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LibraryThing member christinejoseph
good murder at Physch Clinic

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member seasonsoflove
I love P.D. James. While Agatha Christie will always be my favorite mystery writer, P.D. James is definitely up there. She is an expert at using vivid settings and complex characters to create her mystery stories.

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member GeoffHabiger
A Mind to Murder is the second book featuring P.D. James' detective Adam Dalgliesh. Originally published in 1963, I listened to the audio version released in 2013. Crime fiction was a very different genre back in the early 1960's, and a reader of today must take this into consideration when reading these older (classic) stories.

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.
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LibraryThing member thornton37814
When the administrator officer dies under suspicious circumstances with a handful of suspects, Adam Dalgliesh finds himself plowing through evidence, motives, and less-than-forthcoming suspects to make an arrest. While I suspected the perpetrator, it was not completely obvious. Still the story seemed tedious in places. The library held two Overdrive audio versions and after listening to samples of both readers, I selected the one by Penelope Dellaporta who seemed to use more voice inflection and read at a more relaxed pace.… (more)



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