Thursday, December 27, 2007
Review: The Murder Room by P D James
The Murder Room centers around the Dupayne Museum, a fictional place that sits on the edge of Hampstead Heath in London. The Museum is devoted to chronicling the inter war years and features a room that displays information about famous murders during the 20's and 30's. As the mystery opens, the museum is in jeopardy of being closed as Neville Dupayne, one of the trustees of the museum, refuses to sign a new contract to keep the museum open. His siblings, Caroline and Marcus, try to persuade him to change his mind -- the next day Neville is burned to death inside a garage on the museum grounds. Adam Dagliesh and his Special Investigative unit are brought into the case because one of the museum employees works for MI5. As they investigate the various motives and suspects another murder is discovered; a young girl is found stuffed into a trunk in the murder room. She's been strangled and it's determined that she was killed on the same day as Neville Dupayne and probably by the same killer. Lending an aura of distaste to the investigation is the discovery that Caroline Dupayne runs a sex club out of her flat at the museum. Are the murders tied into the activities of the club? The conclusion of the mystery is very dramatic, with one of the witnesses being nearly murdered, but it falls flat in the motive. There was no background leading up to why someone would murder Neville and it was disappointing. The real ending of the book is in a very romantic love scene at a train station for Dalgleish and his love, Emma. At least that was satisfying. As usual, this James novel is very good on characterization and drama; not so good on the mystery. But, I love her writing and will continue to try to read all of her novels. Happy New Year!