Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Death in Holy Orders; PICK OF THE WEEK

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Death in Holy Orders; PICK OF THE WEEK

Article excerpt

Byline: PETE CLARK

It must be assumed, on the basis of solid evidence, that when in doubt, the writer of the whodunnit reaches for a bunch of monks or nuns. I offer as exhibit A, a writer by the name of P.D. James who has made a terrible and compelling speciality in finding the devil in religious detail.

These holy folk are evidently so clever and mysterious, that the temptation for them to indulge in wicked deeds - often with the very best motives - becomes overwhelming. The assumption is that they get up to enough weird nonsense in the normal way of things, so that a spot of murder scarcely registers on their moral scales.

In this example of the genre, written, need I say, by Ms James, we are introduced to a most unhappy band of brothers fretting away in the hallowed cloisters of St Anselm's, situated in a satisfyingly remote location high on the Suffolk cliffs. On the surface, everything is what an American would call swell. The small seminary is richly endowed, has highly valuable art on the walls, and boasts a cellar which offers the assembled priests and baby priests a little taste of heaven without the bother of having to go there.

This is the problem. There is an Archdeacon with an angry sprouting of red facial hair who doesn't approve of this sybaritic lifestyle, being a teetotaller with a large skeleton in his closet.

What else can follow but trouble in a dog collar?

The extra added ingredient is James's hero Commander Adam Dalgliesh, who combines the callings of copper and poet, a most unusual double act. In the old days, Dalgliesh was played by the estimable Roy Marsden, an actor who combined imposing height and a lugubrious yet refined expression that suggested an acquaintance with both poetry and thuggery. Marsden having returned to the world of the theatre, the latest embodiment of Dalgliesh is Martin Shaw (right), who was doubtless picked for the part on the basis of his apprenticeship in The Professionals. …

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