Magazine article The Spectator

Murder on Tape

Magazine article The Spectator

Murder on Tape

Article excerpt

Murder on tape

Attempting to solve a P.D. James mystery is rather like trying to find the winner of a fiendishly problematical horse race. In The Murder Room (Chivers Audio Books. 13 hours 46 mins. Cassette £18.99. CD £23.99. 0800 136919) we have to study the form in microscopic detail in order to find the perpetrator of some loathsome deeds at the Dupayne Museum. It's a pretty spooky place owned by three discordant members of the even spookier Dupayne family, one of whom is found burnt to a frazzle in his Volvo. Design fault or foul play? Enter aloof super-sleuth Commander Adam Dalgleish to scrutinise the facts and quiz the suspects.

When it comes to horses for courses Michael Jayston is the only possible contender for narrator, especially his portrayal of Dalgleish. The contrast of the veteran copper who's seen it all with the sensitive poet and singular man is orchestrated to perfection by Jayston. He is the incarnate Dalgleish; much more so even than Roy Marsden who portrayed him so admirably on television. Jayston is no one-trick pony when it comes to producing a wide variety of voices for the rest of the cast. His female characters are particularly strong without having to resort to straining his vocal cords or wearing tight trousers.

There's an added touch of spice in this latest P.D. James novel, her 16th. We see a more emotional, and as a result more human side to Adam Dalgleish. We discover that he has a soft spot (even love is a possibility) for Emma whom he first met in Death in Holy Orders. Has the Commander become a softy in his old age, and if so will romance diminish his impeccable record of crime-solving? It's all rather touching as we recall that his wife and child were bumped off long ago.

P.D. James's locations are invariably steeped in atmosphere: a theological college or the Middle Temple chambers, a Thamesside publishing house or a power station - and here on the fringes of Hampstead Heath we find ourselves in the Murder Room of the Dupayne Museum, a room brimming with grizzly artefacts from murders in the 1920s and 1930s - and by the time we've reached the thrilling conclusion we have more than enough exhibits for a modern-day extension.

Glen David Gold's historical thriller Carter Beats the Devil (Isis Publishing. …

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