A quiet, English village, in a quiet, post-war England. Sounds pleasant, right? Oh, wrong, because P.D. James understands that drama can drop up anywhere. Particularly if you’re in England. All that class angst, you know.
It all begins when the beautiful Sally Jupp is hired by the Maxie family as a maid. On the surface, she seems to be a quiet, obedient young woman, despite her unfortunately being a single mother. Already prejudice fizzles under the surface, and when the girl is found dead after the village fete, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh must dig beneath the class veneer to find the murderer.
As the characters look back at what led up to the murder, we start seeing that there was more to Sally-as well as everyone else-than anyone guessed. But it is Dalgliesh’s keen knowledge of human nature that digs straight into the hardest questions that no one wants to answer. In this, however, Dalgliesh seems almost a background character. Most of what we know of him, we see through other people’s eyes. This changes as the books go on, and we start seeing more of the disparity between what Dalgliesh is really like, and what people think based on his profession.
This was a fairly short debut for the woman who would go on to write Death in Holy Orders, but it is still tightly written and intriguing.