Review: Death in Holy Orders

Rating: 3 / 5

When I started reading Elizabeth George I noticed that other reviewers compared her to PD James all the time. I've read James before (Children of Men), but never got around to reading her mystery series with New Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh and I figured it was time to pick one up.

Death in Holy Orders is actually book number 11 in the mystery series.

After the accidental death of an ordinand, Ronald Treeves, in St. Anselm's an elite theological college on a remote section of the Suffolk coast, his father unconvinced goes to New Scotland Yard for help in uncovering the truth behind the boys death.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh who has lived at St. Anselm's for a few summers in his youth and has fond memories of the place offers to look into the death on his visit to Suffolk. When he arrives there he learns that the college is hosting a couple of guests for the weekend besides a few ordinances and the resident priests.

If ever there was a case of World's Worst Guests, you'll find it here. There's Archdeacon Crampton who is trying to get St. Anselms shut down, Father Sebastian Morell who has worked very hard to acieve his position as head of St. Anselms and intends to keep it that way. There's Inspector Yarwood who was the examining officer in charge of the suicide of Crampton's first wife. There's Father John who Crampton succeded in putting into prison over charges of sexual abuse and ordinand Raphael Arbuthnot who hates Crampton for what he did to Father John. And there's Arbuthnot and Dalgliesh squaring off over Dr. Emma Lavenham who has arrived to conduct her semi-annual seminars on poetry at the college.

It isnt surprising with this setup that tensions run high, tempers are frayed, emotions are shredded and the murder of one of the guests makes it clear to Dalgliesh that a subtle mind is at work. As Dalgliesh and his team start to investigate they uncover a number of surprising secrets of this small group of unlikely suspects.

Having read both authors it is unsurprising that George is compared to James. Here's the same approach to telling a mystery, delving into the psychologies of the motley group of characters until a motive starts to emerge. I think I prefer James going by this book since with her latter novels George has started delving and padding a bit too much.

Being my first Dalgliesh novel, I enjoyed it quite a bit. James' writing is strong, very descriptive, her characters are interesting and while the ultimate mystery and solution may have been slightly weak it did not diminish my enjoyment of wallowing in her artfully created theological universe.

What did diminish my enjoyment is the character of Father John, a man convicted of paedophilia, who unaccountably gets a very sympathetic treatment from all the characters, except Crampton. Paedophilia is a serious crime and I did not like to see it treated as something which should be acompanied by a slap on the wrist and the person who put the criminal behind bars as someone who hounded a poor, weak old man into prison.

Back and forth on this one. I think I'll recommend with 3 points.


avdi said...

hmm I have read one or two Dagliesh books. There was time (school) when we were totally into mysteries and such like. But now, sigh..

I wish those days would come back. A comfortable sofa, a good book, leisure .. double sigh !

couchpapaya said...

hehe i know avdi, for me it was the summer hols ... lazing arnd reading and eating without any weight ka worries .... bliss!!!

avdi said...

tagged !

WhatsInAName said...

As always, I feel inadequate to comment here :) But you sure add to my must-read list, girl! Keep them coming!
Yups and like Ava, I gave up mysteries quite some time back. Feel like picking one now

Smita said...

I guess i have been reading too much of emotional stuff and it is time i pick some dhishum-2 mystery stuff. I sometimes wonder how can author write such big series.

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