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The Private Patient    by P. D. James order for
Private Patient
by P. D. James
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2008 (2008)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

The P. D. James mysteries are always a delight to read and this one is no exception - here we are treated to another case involving Commander Adam Dalgliesh and members of his squad - Detective Inspector Kate Miskin and Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith - and the murder of a well renowned, but not well liked, investigative journalist, Rhoda Gradwyn.

Ms. Gradwyn was staying at a very elite private clinic run by eminent plastic surgeon, Mr. Chandler-Powell, when she met her fate. During her initial consultation with her surgeon, she mused, 'To become a patient was to relinquish a part of oneself, to be received into a system which, however benign, subtly robbed one of initiative, almost of will'; however, she did expect the surgery to be life changing not life ending.

Commander Dalgliesh is instructed to take over the case from the local Dorset constabulary in order that the whole affair be kept as quiet as possible, although he is never definitively told why this was necessary. On arrival at Cheverell Manor it becomes immediately obvious that this murder is probably an inside job, but of the suspects assembled none seems capable of committing such a crime. First impressions can be somewhat deceptive, and when there is a second murder on the Manor grounds the investigation kicks into high gear.

The Manor is in an isolated place, situated in the Dorset countryside with an old stone circle within the grounds, rife with legend and history. Even Kate can feel the primeval nature of the place: 'They walked ... their shoes sounding hobnailed .... like resolute and threatening invaders, alien creatures disturbing the peace of the night. Except ... that it wasn't peace. Even in the stillness, she could hear the faint shuffles in the grasses and from time to time a distant, almost human cry. The inexorable succession to kill or be killed was being played out under cover of darkness. Rhoda Gradwyn wasn't the only living creature that had died on that Friday night.'

Although Dalgliesh and his team are positive they have found the culprit, they can find no substantial evidence to pin on the perpetrator - it is all circumstantial and theoretical. They are about to interview their suspect under caution when even more bizarre events take place - but that would be giving away too much! If you are a fan of P.D. James' mysteries you will enjoy The Private Patient - and if you are not yet one, you soon will be.

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