The Murder Room

P.D. James

Penguin 2003
A book review by Danny Yee © 2006
When Max Dupayne dies, his will is such that the little Dupayne Museum, devoted to the interwar period, can only continue if all of his children vote to renew the lease. Two of them are keen but one is not, and when he is murdered there are plenty of suspects among the museum staff and management. Enter police commander Adam Dalgliesh, who happens to have visited the museum just a week before.

The mystery elements in The Murder Room are fairly predictable and even a bit stagey — it has parts labelled "The People and the Place", "The First Victim", "The Second Victim", and "The Third Victim". If it lacks the drive of a thriller, however, it is never the least bit dull; the interest is in the characters, subplots and setting.

The strands within the police team — Dalgliesh's romantic entanglement with an Oxford academic, some class friction between Piers and new team member Benton-Smith, and Kate Miskin's psychological observations — remain peripheral. It is the broad range of non-series characters that carry the novel, and one of them that gives it a centre. The Museum itself, nestled on the edge of Hampstead Heath, is also a fascinating creation: James brings to life its contents, which include a room devoted to high profile murders from which the title comes, but also its operation and setting and the interwar years that are its subject.

The Murder Room is a classical murder mystery and vintage P.D. James.

April 2006

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%T The Murder Room
%A James, P.D.
%I Penguin
%D 2003
%O paperback
%G ISBN 0141020423
%P 541pp