Saturday, March 13, 2010
Shroud for a Nightingale by P.D. James
Protagonist: Chief Supt. Adam Dalgliesh
Setting: Heatheringfield, England
Scotland Yard is called in after two nurses are horribly poisoned at Nightingale House, a nursing school. There are lots of motives and several suspects, although not much to connect the two deaths. Then Dalgliesh learns that one of their patients also recently died, and his instinct tells him that this death, too, is connected. In this fourth book in the series, we see James begin to flesh out her characters (including Dalgliesh, finally!) and we see a plotline that ties back to something in the past, a device we are to see James use over and over in subsequent novels.
This story also takes place in a hospital setting, something James knew very well as a hospital administrator for years. In fact, some of the hospital descriptions can get a bit tedious. But then there are other great descriptions like this that make you appreciate James so much: "On another wall was a smaller shelf holding an assortment of china cats of different sizes and breeds. There was one particularly repulsive specimen in spotted blue, bulging of eye and adorned with a bow of blue ribbon; and propped beside it was a greetings card. It showed a female robin, the sex donated by a frilly apron and flowered bonnet, perched on a twig. At her feet, a male robin was spelling out the words 'Good luck' in worms. Dalgliesh hastily averted his eyes from this abomination and continued his tactful examination of the room."