Published in 2008, The Private Patient turned out to be the fourteenth and last in the Adam Dalgliesh detective series by PD James and there are flashes which make me think James knew that. It wasn’t to be her last novel, though. Death Comes to Pemberley, published in 2011, was to be her last. She died in 2014 at the age of 94.
Is The Private Patient her best Dalgliesh novel? For me, no. I think the thirteenth in the series, The Lighthouse, is the best. Other favourites are Devices and Desires and Original Sin.
The Private Patient takes a while to get going. The first few chapters tell us about the victim, Rhoda Gradwyn, who we know will die at a private clinic in Dorset. Rhoda has a facial scar which she will have removed in surgery at Cheverell Manor. The intriguing thing for me is that Rhoda tells her surgeon she has no further need for the scar, but this seemed to get buried in the explanation of Rhoda’s background and that of the staff at the Manor. Of course, once the murder happens, the story moves rapidly. This is an old-fashioned English murder story set in a private cosmetic surgery clinic where it seems everyone has something to hide. The characterization is a little clichéd, perhaps James’ use of her own background is more evident here than in earlier novels.
We get more this time about Kate Miskin which I enjoyed, more beyond her origins which James has told us about before. If James had been younger, I can quite see that she would have retired Dalgliesh and started a new series based on Miskin.
Read my reviews of the previous 13 Dalgliesh mysteries:-
Cover Her Face #1
A Mind to Murder #2
Unnatural Causes #3
Shroud for a Nightingale #4
The Black Tower #5
Death of an Expert Witness #6
A Taste for Death #7
Devices and Desires #8
Original Sin #9
A Certain Justice #10
Death in Holy Orders #11
The Murder Room #12
The Lighthouse #13
‘The Private Patient’ by PD James, #14 Adam Dalgliesh [UK: Faber] Buy at Amazon
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THE PRIVATE PATIENT by PD James: the last Dalgliesh book #crimefiction http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1VR via @SandraDanby