A murderer called the Whistler is stalking young women in the community around the Larsoken Nuclear Power Station. When Hilary Robarts, acting administrator of the power station, turns up dead, it seems identifying the perpetrator is a given, except it isn’t. “Devices and Desires,” the eighth book in the best-selling crime series by P.D. James, brings commander Adam Dalgliesh into a complicated web of motives for murder.
A serial killer is preying on young women alone in the dark in this headland on the coast of Norfolk. A false sense of comfort precedes their terrifying deaths along empty roadways as a woman with a small dog appears moments before death. The killer stuffs the victims’ mouths with locks of their own hair. The murders started 15 months ago and are happening more frequently.
Commander Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard isn’t on the case for the Whistler. Instead, he is in Norfolk on holiday to a converted windmill left to him by his newly deceased aunt. This police commander and poet becomes involved when he finds the strangled body of the acting administrator of the power station on the beach. The star of several crime mysteries by James and a television series, Dalgliesh proves to be an intelligent and sensitive detective.
The subplots and cast of characters deepen this murder mystery plot, pulling the reader down a road of wondering who really killed Hilary Robarts. It could be the haunted widower, father of four, who Robarts was trying to evict from her property. It could be the director of the Larksoken station, who was trying to end their affair. The political activist, leading a newsletter for the People Against Nuclear Power, was being sued for libel by Robarts, which further complicates his desperate life and could be a motive for murder.
Author P.D. James
Author P.D. James has written more than 20 British crime fiction novels in her long career, including 14 Adam Dalgliesh mysteries. The latest, titled “The Private Patient,” was published in 2008 by Knopf. The first Dalgliesh novel, and James’ debut, titled “Cover Her Face,” was published in 1962. In addition to writing novels, James spent 30 years in British Civil Service, working in the National Health Service and the Home Office.
- Devices and Desires: James, P.D.
- USA Today: P.D. James solves the mystery of living a full life
- The Paris Review: P. D. James, The Art of Fiction No. 141
Alice Drinkworth has been a writer and journalist since 1995. She has written for community newspapers, college magazines and Salon.com. Drinkworth earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Wisconsin and won a media award for her in-depth coverage of local politics. She is also a certified master gardener.