The body of a student from a nearby theological college is found on a remote coast in Britain. Although the local authorities rule the death an accident, the boy's father, a wealthy and powerful man, is not satisfied. Going straight to the top, he persuades Scotland Yard to get involved. Commander Adam Dalgliesh, who is set to go on a vacation in the area, offers to investigate the death further.
That same weekend, aside from dealing with the horror of the death of this student, the priests at the college are also expecting a visit by the Archdeacon who they fear will press for the imminent closure of their beloved school.
There are complications. The benefactress who set up the college left very valuable pieces of art which she willed would remain at the college as long as it remained open. But if the college were ever closed down, she intended that the ownership of the art would pass to the priests who were on staff at that time. The priests are faced with a fight with the Archdeacon both over the closure and over his desire to transfer the art out of the school for the benefit of the church as a whole.
There are more complications. The day before Dalgliesh arrives there is another death at the college. This death is probably of natural causes. Then on the evening of his arrival, another death takes place.
This report prepared by Mildred Diamant
Knopf, May 2001, 25.00, 415 pp.
The coroner's jury concluded that St. Anselm's Theological College student Ronald Treeves died accidentally. However, his adoptive father has doubts about his son's death. He uses his political influence as a major businessman with government ties to persuade senior officials of New Scotland Yard to investigate what really happened to Ronald. His superior Harkness sends Commander Adam Dalgeish to the school located in East Anglia.
Though he expects to find it wasnothing but an accident, Adam enjoys the idea of visiting St. Anselm's, a place he once attended. However, Adam quickly revises his idea of a working vacation when someone beats to death an unpopular Archdeacon. Now Adam believes that Treeves is right when he insists his son was murdered and the law enforcement official knows he has his work cut out to catch a clever but vicious killer.
As expected in a P.D. James' who-done-it, everyone has a motive, a means, and an opportunity though in DEATH IN HOLY ORDERS some of the suspect's motives seem a bit stretched. Faced with a plethora of potential culprits, Dalgeish shows why his investigations are fun to observe. The story line is well written and the villain is a good opponent for Dalgeish. The Grand Dame of the British police procedural, Ms. James continues to provide her fans with a fresh mystery that will send new readers seeking previous Dalgeish novels (see A CERTAIN JUSTICE).
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner