Showing posts with label P. D. James. Show all posts
Showing posts with label P. D. James. Show all posts

Friday, April 16, 2021

#FridayReads: Cordelia Gray Has Risen...

Okay. Okay. I told myself to take a minute or two out of Friday to write an updated post–or a #FridayReads deal thing. So, while I sit here at a blank page trying to put an essay down on paper, let me catch readers up on what I have next in mind to read.

Oh, I plan on doing some duel reading (more on the other book later). 50 pages a day. Something like that. Not my usual gig, but I don't want to lose steam with my second offering…

Therefore, first up is…

The Skull Beneath the Skin by P. D. James. This is the second and final entry in James's Cordelia Gray detective agency series.

Shamefully, I started this book ten years ago, after reading the wonderfulness of the first book in the series, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman. So why am I just now picking up Gray's second and final mystery?

You want to know the truth? I had a dream about it and, in that dream, I was Cordelia Gray. Blame it on the Benadryl, but I tell you no lies. I laid my ass down one night and dreamt about reading this book, as I, in the dream, was Cordelia Gray solving a mystery involving crows. Maybe that was guilt for not completing this book working through my subconscious.  Yet, needless to say, I took the hint.  Dreaming about unread books has happened to me before.

But just in case, I have to list what made me stop the book ten years ago about a quarter ways through:

1.    As I've stated over the years, I can't stand mysteries involving theatres, movie lots, television sound-stages, scripts, and curtains—basically, entertainment business stuff. Don't ask me why because I don't even know why these set-ups annoy me. Nevertheless, in the case of The Skull Beneath the Skin, an actress is receiving poison-pen letters. Heading toward a performance on an island somewhere in Britain, said actress's husband employed Gray to go undercover as her secretary-companion. Gray's job is to stealthy find the culprit of these letters before he or she exacts their desired threats upon the actress. Naturally, a pile of bodies will help Gray toward the truth.

2.    I bailed as the chapters moved further away from Gray's perspective and into others. I'm used to this now from James.  Her mysteries have strength and resonance because of her ability to brighten her characters with personalities, nuance, secrets, and motives (not to dismiss her incredible literary writing qualities applied to her mysteries).  When she hops perspectives, you get first-hand observation to play inference with her mystery-writing game.  But as I've always said about James, you MUST read between the lines of her dialogue.  That's where she can really trip you up.

At the time of my initial attempt at the book, I was new to James. I had yet to even start her Adam Dalgliesh series. Which, thankfully, I stand at a six-out-of-fourteen down as of writing this. So I found Skull to be tepid and laborious than my experience with the first Gray mystery.  An Unsuitable Job for a Woman was shorter, and darn-right airtight with its clever mystery and pacing.  Nevertheless, reading the wonderfulness of Dalgliesh has grounded away those regards for James's work.

And so, ladies and gentleman, that's why I'm here. It's finally time to give Cordelia Gray her proper due.  I don't know why Storm from X-Men came to mind, other than I feel all powerful and activated and ready to handle my business by giving this series a proper closing.  I'm over 50 pages in already and ready to GO!  Only then can I knock on the doors of the eight books I have left in the Dalgliesh series.

(Forgive all spelling and grammatical errors.  I seriously have an essay to write, so I'm making this one quick.)

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Friday, February 22, 2019

#MarchMysteryMadness TBR - Stunts & Rumbles

March Mystery Madness Challenges...

1.  Old
Shroud for a Nightingale (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries Book 4) by P. J. James (

2.  Again
Hard Time: A V. I. Warshawski Novel (V.I. Warshawski Novels Book 9) by Sara Paretsky (

3.  New
Final Jeopardy (Alexandra Cooper Mysteries) by Linda Fairstein (

4.  Borrowed
The Color of Justice by Ace Collins (

5.  Blue
Inner City Blues: A Charlotte Justice Novel by Paula L. Woods (

6.  Optional: Mystery featuring or themed around a wedding!

Sick of Shadows (Elizabeth MacPherson) by Sharon McCrumb (

Friday, January 4, 2019

I Guess the 1st Book Haul of 2019

Barnes & Noble Pick-Ups

Murder with Fried Chicken and Waffles (A Mahalia Watkins Mystery) by A. L. Herbert.  I’ve seen this floating around once or twice.  It’s a black cozy mystery (series) with a soulfood-themed hook.  And Death by Dumpling is in the same vein of a food inspired mysteries.  Except the author, Vivien Chien, takes on the Chinese noodle shop as her hook.

 Barnes & Noble Online Pick-Ups

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Openers Revisited ~ PART TWO...

There’s a lot of history behind this opening scene.  It began in the first book in P. D. James's Cordelia Gray series, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.  In the opening of that book Cordelia Gray worked as an assistant–turned intern–to a private investigator.  Yet, stepping into his office in that book's opening, she had the misfortune of finding her boss's body.  His death was a suicide, and one with a good-bye letter passing his business on to Cordelia.  
Already an awkward character stuck in a financial crunch; Cordelia wavered on his final request.  Eventually she made the decision to take over his business–just as he trained and legally prepared her.  Fast-forward to this book where Cordelia is completely on her own, and still a little uncomfortable with her new career path.  
So I love the self-conscious reflections seen through a nameplate.  Among other slices of imagery, of course.  To me this opening continues to make Cordelia's character human.  She's uncertain.  Juggling her confidence as an investigator.  However, she recognizes she's already on the path and have to step up to the plate.
Pun intended.
Sadly, there was never a book three.  A TV series featuring a pregnant Cordelia Gray shut James's vigor for writing this character down.

I’m going to keep this extremely simply by saying: if you haven’t read Butler’s Patternist series, then I FEEL for you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015's 6 FINAL READS ~ PART 2

All right, friends.  I’m back with the second half of my 2015’s 6 FINAL READS.

I finally, after over a year, sat my ass down to finish reading this volume of the Young Miss Holmes manga series.  And it was fantastic.  I believe I stalled for so long because of the eight-part The Hound of Baskervilles case Christie investigated.  Somewhere in the middle, I lost interest in the case.  Only to find myself enthralled by it during my re-introduction.
But let me back up a little, for those who aren’t familiar with Kaoru Shintani’s Young Miss Holmes.  It’s quite simple: ten-year-old Christie is the protege of her uncle, Sherlock Holmes.  Endowed with his sense of chief intelligence (how theatrical of a description?) as her uncle, Christie spends her time running around England solving murder mysteries.  And a variety of murders she encounters–almost freely.  You see her parents are in India, so she’s aided by a pistol-toting maid named Ann Marie.  Likewise, her servant, Nora, tags along on Christie's adventures.  Though mostly unassuming, Nora stashed a forked tongue whip underneath her petticoats.  
Ann Marie & Nora DON'T PLAY
when it comes to Christie!
Christie’s curious and precocious nature aside, I find these characters bring much of the action and humor.  I perk up whenever Anne Marie or Nora unleashes her respective attacks, in the face of protecting her charge.  It’s equally entertaining watching Christie’s sneaky shenanigans and off-color comments aimed at her "protectorates."  But don't get Christie wrong.  She does bring her guardians trouble, both from her willful behavior and slick mouth.  However, Christie cares deeply for the two.  She's as protective and loyal to them as they are to her.  And this is further shown in the two chapters dedicated to sharing the history of Nora and Ann Marie.
And it’s these two chapters I felt highlighted this volume.  Nora’s chapter follows her life as a gypsy-slave, before finding solace under the care of Christie’s parents.  As for Ann Marie’s story, we get a glimpse into her tragic childhood growing up in America.  Shintani takes us all the way to post-Civil War Georgia, and on into the racial strife during the time.  And you wouldn’t believe what he came up with.  Then again, it may not come as a surprise given the context.
So the list goes for teenage sleuths:
1.  Martha Grimes' pre-teen amateur sleuth, Emma Graham.
2.  Alan Bradley’s sharp-thinking ten-year-old sleuth, Flavia de Luce
3.  And Kaoru Shintani’s ten-year-old Crystal "Christie" Margaret Hope.
It's interesting how each series is historical–in a sense.  Graham takes part in the 60s, whereas de Luce's a full decade ahead.  As for Christie, she's a 19th century girl.  And I can't wait to get into the third and final volume.  I just love this kind of shit.  Smart girls solving mysteries and kicking grown men ass!  Or at least getting them locked up by the law.

Here’s another book I wish to dedicate an entire blog post toward.  But I’m sticking to my year-end wrap up here, as much as it pains me to hold back my thoughts.  You see, I want to write more on the book for a variety of reasons.  More so from the conversations generated by Rodriguez.  
He uses a stream of socially-conscious and opinionated essays to piece together his autobiography.  Some of his opinions may appear debatable, but I lean a little toward thought-provoking.  I’ll break down the subjects he addresses later.  But for the sake of holding myself back, I’ll drop a quick summary of the man.
Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory recounts life as a Mexican-American living in Sacramento during the 60s to 80s.  His story unfolds life as a child understanding a total of 50 English words.  This leads him to a Roman Catholic school for his early education, where his teachers have concern for his inability to grasp English.  Their suggestion is for his parents to speak more English around him, and so they do.  
However, this early circumstance stirs the beginning of Rodriguez's life story.  As a child, he begins to differentiate language and cultural differences between himself and his white classmates (as well as neighbors).  Which language and culture was more acceptable?  Which was correct for him?  His questioning leads to trouble, and a doubtful perspective of his Mexican parents.  Determined to control his future he learns to assimilate to American life.  Of course via its academic system.  This, in turn, causes Rodriguez to find himself distant from his Mexican roots.  To further his troubles, he relays the strife he faces by not finding acceptance in the exchange.  Instead of appearing as a successful middle-class American, he’s haunted by the “minority” label.  A label he rejects as the use of affirmative action grants him professional opportunities.  This troubles Rodriguez–and for obvious reasons.  Still, he never manages to escape his label.
There’s plenty to consider from Rodriguez’s commentary, expressions, and opinions on his inner grapples.  Or more so the Mexican heritage he bypassed in the divide between his aspirations.  Furthermore, he takes apart his religion during the "Credo" essay.  And I kind of recognized his salty view in that arena.  
Nonetheless, it wasn’t until the final two essays that I truly woke to his voice.  When he falls into the subject of his complexion and “minority” labels, I started to connect with his anguish.  Though I smirked as well, seeing how he was the one who denied much of his heritage/culture in the chase for a middle-class "seat."  Which he gained successfully, only to find himself alienated in the processes.  The final essay on his profession ties up his story, and the isolating conclusion of his struggles.  Closing the book comes his epilogue, featuring the silence he endures from his now disconnected parents.
Moving and kind of whiny in all the right areas, I have to give credit how Hunger of Memory drew me into the deep complexities of immigrant children struggling with assimilation and ambition.  And I honestly have to say–I get it.  Not one to toss aside my own background, I do understand what its like to ache for better.  Or to long for a life beyond your parents' road.  But like many things of that nature, it comes with a cost.
All right.  All right.  I can’t say too, too much about this book for a very important reason: I skipped toward the end.  Don’t judge.  Don’t laugh.  Just hear me out when I say I started the book in the spring of 2014 and only now decided to finish it up.  Now I managed to get through 100 pages–back then.  And the book is only 240-or-so pages.  So I figured my new, determined and focused attitude would sail me right through this.  Besides, I enjoyed James’ first Dalgliesh book enough to come this far.  With the expectation of moving further into the series.  So I came pumped and ready to go.  Then almost instantaneously, I got that familiar dry and dull buzz from over a year ago.  James is so meticulous of a crime fiction writer that I found myself soaked too deep into her time frames and mathematics.  I say that as opposed to her crime and character.  So.  I skimmed lightly toward the final 40 pages and tread on to the finish line.  And that’s just the way the damn cookie crumbles.  Judge those who may, but after a year, I consider this a FINISHED READ.
With the intentions of getting the third book somewhere in the unforeseen future.  Cross all fingers.
Nonetheless, since I’m finished whining, I’ll “remind” everyone what happens in this books.
Via Goodreads!
"On the surface, the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is one of the most reputable institutions in London. But when the administrative head is found dead with a chisel in her heart, that distinguished facade begins to crumble as the truth emerges. Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate and quickly finds himself caught in a whirlwind of psychiatry, drugs, and deceit. Now he must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts has resulted in murder and stop a cunning killer before the next blow."
And that's it my friends!  My 6 FINAL READS of 2015.  But remember to please leave your comments on your 6 FINAL READS OF 2015 down below.  I'm currently powering my way through Haruki Murakami's monster, 1Q84.  I'm tackling this one a year later, with the intent of going after my large books this year.  And there are plenty to keep me company.  

In case this is the last post before New Years: HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!  Keep READING, DRAWING, AND LIFE'ING.  
Wait.  I think I have another post in me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Currently-Reading Hustle (Video)

B O O K S M E N T I O N (All links are Amazon affiliate)

1. Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Tempted Champions by Yvonne Navarro ~
2. Young Miss Holmes by Kaoru Shintani ~
3. A Free Life by Ha Jin ~
4. A Mind to Murder by P. D. James ~
5. Perfect Peace by Daniel Black ~
6. God is Always Hiring by Regina Brett ~
7. Day Shift by Charlaine Harris ~



Monday, July 21, 2014

Unbox Me

Here we go.  Time to unbox the latest batch of BookOutlet books.  I suppose I can't resist a deal, and saving $10 when you spend a total of $30 is too good a deal to ignore.  Especially when the books are less than $7.  So you can look at it two ways: either you're getting free shipping or a free book.  Makes no difference.  You must indulge yourself!

Freshly opened and free of packing paper (and mysteriously missing a packing slip).  I'm already super excited at this point.  I like how BookOutlet always makes it seems like there are less books than you actually ordered.  But still, I can already tell I'll need to rearrange my bookshelves again.  Including placing the remainders of my last order off my desk and somewhere appropriate until I find the mood to read them.

As I mentioned in a recent POST, I finished the first book [Hotel Paradise] in Martha Grimes's Emma Graham series.  Immediately, I just had to have the remaining three books in Emma's series.  Like... it was that serious.  So I'm happy I found them all in one go!  The series order goes as: Hotel Paradise, Cold Flat Junction, Belle Ruin, and Fadeaway Girl.  Still, I'm going to wait before I jump into book two.  I have to catch up on another author first, then it's back to Emma Graham's world.

Two copies of Sue Grafton's A is for Alibi suddenly popped up on the BookOutlet's listings.  They're the original hardbacks–which is extra, extra cool.  And made for a quick, compulsive snatched.  The original hardbacks have tons more character than the current paperbacks (speaking about the covers).  So what better way to start collecting them in this form than with the first book in the Kinsey Millhone series?  A Mind to Murder is book two in P. D. James's Adam Dalgliesh series.  After reading the first book, Cover Her Face, finding book two screams WIN!

Max Gladstone's Two Serpents Rise is the second book in his Craft Sequence series.  Released in October of 2013, I've waited this long to finally pick it up.  Why?  Because book three, Full Fathom Five, just released and I'm behind.  Basically, I have to catch up.  Max Gladstone is great.  Like Steve Bein, I'm starting to notice that I like male urban fantasy writers more than female–which is very unusual.  But it has to do with how the romance aspects are mostly snuffed off by male authors.  That's just the damn truth.  Give me the great characters, the world-building, the unique plotting.  Leave all the sex chat and werewolf gazing out.  

Nonetheless, Gladstone's series reflects the democracies of corporate America (but not necessarily American) inside urban fantasy, extreme world-building fantasy, and a few other genre-bending elements.  As I await my copy of Full Fathom Five, I'm sinking my teeth into this one.  I'll be back Emma Graham.

Thanks, everyone.  Do you love BookOutlet?  And what're you reading this summer?  Share in the comment section below!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Cover Her Face by P.D. James

“Coincidences happen every day.  An average jury will be able to think up half a dozen instances in their own experience.  The most likely interpretation of the facts so far is that someone known to Sally got in through her window and killed her.  He may or may not have used the ladder.  There are scratches on the walls as if he slid down by the stack pipe and lost his hold when he was nearly at the ground.  The police must have noticed these, but I don't see how they can prove when the scratches were made.  Sally may have been admitting callers that way on previous occasions.”

Cover Her Face starts off at Martingale manor, a home owned by a wealthy English family known as the Maxie family. Within the opening of the book, the family prepares to (once again) host a church-related event on their wide property.  This annual event raises money for charity, complete with re-establishing the influence of the Maxie family. 

Eleanor Maxie, family matriarch and wife of the bedridden Mr. Maxie, sends for family and friends to assist her with the charity event.  This includes her son Dr. Stephen Maxie and, family friend and socialite, Catherine Bowers. Additionally, within Mrs. Maxie’s household comes her daughter Deborah Maxie and, her introspective potential boyfriend, Felix Hearne. With a full staff of volunteers, Mrs. Maxie feels reassured that success will follow her upcoming charity event.

Then one evening (after the success of the charity) her son approaches the crowded dinner table to announce that he is engaged to Mrs. Maxie’s newest parlor maid, Sally Jupp.  Sally has a deep and strong history of rebellion and willfulness.  However, that has never deterred Mrs. Maxie from recognizing how knowledgeable and helpful Sally is as a maid.  Heck, Mrs. Maxie even allowed Sally to keep her toddler in the manor.  Nonetheless, the endlessly patient Mrs. Maxie cannot bless Sally and her son's engagement.  Her reservations of Sally can only lie aside for so long.  And while that may be one grievance Mrs. Maxie may have over Sally, it doesn't help that the majority of Mrs. Maxie’s family and friends do not like the girl almost by default. So when Sally Jupp turns up dead behind the bolted door of her room inside of the Martingale manor, the list of suspects appears close and boundless.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Innocent Blood" by P. D. James ~ The Spoiler Edition

Having the desire to read this book for years, it did not turn out nowhere near how I expected it to.  In both a good and bad way.  So I shall warn you NOW!  I will probably spoil this entire book right here… right now!

Excuse me for stating this, but this book was on some twisted shit, and I’m not even going to attempt to go for P. J. James for this one.  I’ve read a few of her books and am slightly familiar with her psychology-thriller template.  However, Innocent Blood just had me looking sick and crazy in the end.  Okay, I’ll reframe and state that it wasn’t as radically rendering as I’m crying out to believe.  It’s not something that I won’t get over in a couple of days, to be fair.  And I’m certainly interested in reading another of her books.  Nevertheless, I dedicate this blog post to spilling a little on the summary of the book, and answering the Reading Group Guide questions that are present in the back of the book.  I thought this would be a much more interesting way of speaking about the complexities of Innocent Blood.  For me to present and answer those questions, I would have to give away parts of the book.  So be warned now!

Here we go, a condense (hopefully) summary.  First, the story takes place in Britain.  It begins with the adopted Philippa Palfrey introducing herself to a social worker.  Armed with her passport and drivers’ license, eighteen-year-old Philippa is prepared to employee the Children Act of 1975 to gather information regarding her birth parents.  In Philippa’s circumstance the passing of the Children Act of 1975 grants her further documentation of her adoption at eight-years-old; though, at one point, those documents were listed under confidential.  The social worker makes a slight show of hesitation, hinting more or less that Philippa might not like what she finds.  Naturally, Philippa isn’t discouraged.  She was adopted into a well-off family (Maurice and Hilda Palfrey), and coated with a certain level of prestige, is determined to have things her way.  Besides, she’s never felt love within her adopted family, and driven by her dreams, can only open her arms to the possibility of finding love through her biological parents.  Love in the form of identity.

Leaving the social worker’s office, Philippa is encouraged to find her birth certificate.  That will reveal the names of her biological parents.  She does so, receiving the envelope from the Registrar General soon after her visit to the social worker's office.  The first thing she notice is that she was named Rose Ducton.  The second: the address of her birth parents from the year she was born, 1960.  Philippa keeps this information from her homemaker/juvenile court juror adopted mother, Hilda, as well as from her sociology professor adopted father, Maurice.  In the meantime, Philippa makes personal plans to reach her birth home in Seven Kings, Essex.  After all, her adopted father appears to occupied to care.  A knowingness that Philippa is familiar with.  

Philippa arrives in her birth neighborhood only to find that her original home is presently vacant, yet occupied by another tenant.  Therefore, she goes to speak with the neighbors.  It's here that the news slams into her that her birth father and mother were condemned to prison years ago for the rape and murder of a twelve-year-old named Julie Scase.  Further information reveals that Philippa’s biology father died in prison whereas her mother, Mary Ducton, was coming up on a release.  Neither of the provided information cripples Philippa’s resolve to find her parents, or her mother in this case.  It only reinforces her need for common identity, so she sets forth in seeking out her mother and pulling the woman into her life.  However, before she begins, she confronts her adopted parents on the issue.  They could come up with no explanation concerning Philippa’s parents' crimes, only that it was best that Philippa realize that there was never a good time for them to have shared this information with her.  Also according to them, it wasn’t a good idea for Philippa to seek out her mother.  Nevertheless, her adopted parents do little to stand in her way, reassured that she would find what she’s looking for and return to them.

Philippa uses her adoptive parents' unhinderedness as a means to find the necessary information on her mother’s prison whereabouts.  Once discovered, she requests a visitation, driven by the romantic idea that she can take care of her mother even if she should put her Cambridge dreams on hold to do so.  And that’s what Philippa manages.  Instead of leaving her mother alone to a hostel after her release date, Philippa leases a bodega-like flat (below her is a small grocery store run by a man named Edward) and retrieves her mother for the growing experience.  After her mother’s probation officer comes to solidify the conditions, Philippa and her mother proceed to get jobs at a local diner.  All the while, they are unaware that poor Juliet Scase’s father has been tracking Philippa’s mother’s prison sentence, and subsequent releasing.  Why?  To exact revenge, of course.

Used from Archivia Caltari
It sounds straight forward, but trust me when I say that this novel is anything but straight forward.  Sure, some areas may come across as predictable once you settle into the stream of James’s storytelling, but the psychological aspects will leave you in wonder.  Let me first make it clear that Philippa isn’t the only narrative you follow as the reader.  Thankfully so.  You also follow the neurotic musings of Juliet Scase’s father, Norman.  From his beginnings as a thief, to the lost of his daughter and wife, Mavis.  His character blossoms under some psychological complexities that both harden his resolve for revenge, as well as link his abilities/skills to implement his plan smoothly.  We also get a glimpse into Maurice Palfrey and his wife Hilda Palfrey.  As Philippa’s adoptive parents, James does not let each of their mental intricacies slide.  We know who they are and why they do and live as they do.  Even as some of their most disturbing behaviors come to light, it is not without reason.  And probably one of the most missed, as well as important, narratives lie in the frame narrative (via Mary Ducton’s letter to Philippa) James uses to illustrate the psychology behind Philippa’s mother and her crime.  And as atrocious as it sounds, this piece of framed narrative is where I grew to understand Mary Ducton.  James makes matters clear concerning Mary's emotionless reasoning behind the murder.  In essence, she, herself, was abused as a child and it is terrifying upon its disclosure.

Having only read into James's Cordelia Grey Mysteries, I believe it's time I start packing the dollars to take on her whole catalog of books.  And so should you if you are behind on P.D. James.

Reading Group Questions

1.  When Philippa first learns that her mother was a murderess about to be released from prison, did you expect that her mother would be a threat to Philippa?  Were you surprised to find her a gentle, even sympathetic character?  Where does the suspense in the novel come from?

I absolutely did believe Mary Ducton was going to be a threat to Philippa.  I was sure that she would take full advantage of the clout Philippa managed to gather from the status of Maurice Palfrey.  Additonally, to the extend of his deceased ex-wife, Helena, an earls daughter.  An earl is considered a person of nobility.  

Nonetheless, I was surprised to find Mary to be gentle, but held my breathe in the thought that she was buying time before she made her move.  Now I know, once a killer always a killer.  But there seems to be no sympathy for Mary Ducton by other readers.  She has paid her price (though I thought a life term would be the court's decision), and is now living her life under the social stigma of a child murderer.  Yet, I rooted for Mary once the narrative switched to share her fated letter to Philippa, soon after the two became roommates.  Mary was trying again at life by putting her trust in Philippa.  And when it came to light that Mary gave Philippa away months before the murder of Juliet Scase, James did not relent as she shed a clear light as to why.  I mean, James dug into Mary’s psychology that I couldn't help but feel for her in the end.  I’ve seen reviews where readers claim she got what she deserved, delivered by the awfulness I come to learn that made up Philippa.  Speaking of which, I had to remind myself that Philippa was eighteen--therefore a child as the novel's events unfolded.  I stress that even more when later she goes to an even lower point to find that love she felt her mother failed to give her.  

As far as the suspense in the novel, most of that came from Norman Scase and the thrill as to whether or not he would get away with this murder he has so plotted.

2.  How does Philippa change in the course of the novel?  What does her final encounter with Norman Scase reveal about her growth?  Do you accept as true that "it is only through learning to love that we find identity"?

I believe the last line fully.  Learning to love yourself and those who show you love, but can not always express it, does blend and create an identity.  For someone to show you even a semblance of concern and care is to show you love.  It's just often shown differently.  Philippa couldn't accept the sort of callus, non-spoken love which she recieved from her adoptive parents.  Most of their love manifested in the development of her future, and further success as a respectable woman.  Now, I could point out her adoptive father's disturbing fondness for her, later expressed sexually (though legal), but I won't go there considering I felt like that was a downfall on Philippa's overall development.  

Nevertheless, the fact is that her own biological mother was a murderess, did not want Philippa because of her own troubled childhood baggage/tramua, and came across as "useless" to Philippa's journey for identity.  In doing so, Philippa gave up the battle when she learned the truth; her mother never wanted her, and can not give back that love she should have provided to Philippa as a child.  In turn, Philippa allowed Norman Scase to do as he will to her mother.  Still, poor Mary Ducton had given up on life, as she wasn't able to find her identity because she was unable to love her own child.  Had she learned to love Philippa, Mary may have kept from murdering Juliet--without much thought.  This leading to the trauma they both share, and Mary's eventual suicide.  I'm still upset at the fate of Mary and Philippa, though.

Have you read Innocent Blood or any other P. D. James psychological thriller?  Please share your thoughts or suggestions.  Should I start her Adam Dalgliesh series now?

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