by P. D. James

St. Anselms is a seminary of the High Anglican church located on a wild and lonely stretch of coastline in East Anglia. There on an isolated sandy beach Ronald Treeves is found dead. It looks like an accident, or does it? Could it be suicide? Could it be murder? Ronald’s very wealthy and influential father is not so sure about the conclusions the police have drawn. He wants further investigation to be done. Adam Dalgliesh, Scotland Yard investigator and poet, is called to the scene. You can rest assured, he will find the truth. But apparently there is more to this story than first meets the eye, because there are more deaths, and the truth gets harder and harder to find.


Death in Holy Orders is P. D. James at her best. It is a closed room mystery that so many of the English mystery writers like so much. There has been foul play, and someone at St. Anselms is to blame. There can be no one else. It makes everyone uncomfortable knowing that one of them is a murderer! James allows the reader to really examine the thoughts and motives of her characters. This ability to get to know these people, their histories, and their feelings really makes for a gripping story. The characters’ stories offer much that requires scrutiny. All manner of evil lurks here, but that doesn’t mean they are all murderers.


St. Anselms is the ancient home of the Arbuthnot family. It was willed to the church with very explicit instructions about the type of study and the form of worship that would be practiced there. Some wish the place closed. It is too expensive and too irrelevant to the way church is done today. Others who value the ancient rites feel the threat of closure in a very real and personal way. Along with the land and house the Arbuthnots also left some priceless artwork and valuable silver to be used for the Holy Communion. Who will take ownership of these items if the seminary is closed? Who will inherit the house and the land? These circumstances lead to an exciting tale of greed, fear, ambition, hatred, revenge, and, of course, murder.


It’s hot outside (just in case you haven’t noticed). Find a cool spot and be transported to the wild and windy Suffolk coast and enjoy a fine mystery story told by a master.