The Baronness and the Queen

I’m in the middle of a re-evaluation of P.D. James, at least as a short story writer (I’m not feeling ready yet for trying a novel of hers again, having not yet recovered from my two previous attempts) After reading the excellent The Part Time Job, I followed with The Boxdale Inheritance which I liked but also had issues with which I’m going to discuss here.

The first one has to do with Dalgliesh which I don’t find particularly remarkable as either a character or a detective. I feel about him exactly the same way Kate Jackson does about Ngaio Marsh’s Roderick Alleyn. He is admittedly competent and does his detective job effectively, but I’m not awed by him. Perhaps he shines better in the novel form.

Then there is James’s plotting which I also find competent but not as impressive as it is often claimed to be. I admittedly didn’t guess who the murderer was, but the solution was anti-climactic and I think not quite fair. It is certainly much less of a shocker than the final revelation in Part-Time Job.

That it fails to floor the reader is not the only problem I had with the solution, however. Those readers of this blog of a certain age may remember how the Baronness briefly got into hot water because of her novel Original Sin, which some reviewers thought borrowed heavily from Nicholas Blake’s End of Chapter. Coincidence or reminiscence? We’ll probably never know, but Boxdale too reminds one from another writer’s work as it is basically a reframing of Ellery Queen’s The Murderer is a Fox, from the core argument to the identity of the murderer, their « motive » and the « method » they used. Sure, there are significant differences as well such as the presence of an « accomplice » and the reason why the case is reopened but the similarities are still there and somewhat unsettling.

This is not to say the story is a dud however. It is extremely readable and smoothly written (James apparently kept her tendency to overwrite to her longer – increasingly longer – novels) and so I’m adding it as more evidence in her favour. Who knows, I may be on my way to become a fan.

Who knows.

3 commentaires sur “The Baronness and the Queen

  1. Great to read a rare Xavier review! I am not much of a fan of P D James’ work. I have similar feelings to Dalgliesh as I do to Alleyn. The first few books in the series were the best. The more popular she got the longer the books got and in the end the structure was this: 150 pages of learning about the characters, their vices and their disagreements. Then someone dies. 150 pages where Dalgliesh learns what the reader already knows, followed by another 100+ pages for the solution to materialise. So much filler!!! Makes The Nine Tailors look like a short story lol
    Which two novels did you read by James?

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    1. The Skull Beneath the Skin and The Private Patient. Both fitted your description to a T.

      I may do more reviews in the future, provided of course that I’m finally able to use this [censored] new WordPress template correctly. The article while rather brief took forever to write and post, and I had to give up adding pictures, which is a pity as I had found some nice ones. Why do they always feel the need of fix that which is not broken?!?


      1. Yeah The Private Patient is a later title so definitely fits the padded structure I mentioned. Can’t remember much but I thought Cordelia Gray books were slightly better, but only by a smidge. I don’t think James’ is ever going to be an author I will re-read.

        Aimé par 1 personne

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