P.D. James’ A Mind to Murder (1963) is a routine police procedural with a startling ending.
This is James’ second book about Scotland Yard Investigator Adam Dalgliesh.
Someone kills the widely-disliked administrative assistant at the Steen Psychiatric Clinic. The murder is almost a closed-room murder.
Clinic employees find the body of Enid Bolam in the basement record room. Scattered records surround her. The locked outside basement doors make it so that the murderer would have had to enter and leave through a monitored front entrance.
Someone in the building had to have done the murder.
Dalgliesh and his assistant Sergeant Martin interview the suspects, look into their lives and histories, and, almost fortuitously, solve the murder.
Several times the story mentions that Dalgliesh has solved every case he’s undertaken. He almost solves this case wrong. Only a last-minute surprise saves the day.
At one point, James writes of the plodding Sergeant Martin, “Methodical attention to detail had solved other murders and would solve this one.” And that’s how it happened.
I’ve had this book on my Kindle waiting to be read. When I learned of the recent death of P.D. James, I decided to read the book now to acknowledge a classic mystery writer I’ve read (in small doses) and enjoyed over many years.
A Mind to Murder may not be the best book in the Adam Dalgliesh series, but, even in this lesser entry, James’ craftsmanship shines through.