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Publisher's Summary

The setting itself is elemental P.D. James: the bleak coast of East Anglia, where atop a sweep of low cliffs stands the small theological college of St. Anselm's. On the shore not far away, smothered beneath a fall of sand, lies the body of one of the school's young ordinands. He is the son of Sir Alred Treeves, a hugely successful and flamboyant businessman who is accustomed to getting what he wants - and in this case what he wants is Commander Adam Dalgliesh to investigate his son's death. Although there seems to be little to investigate, Dalgliesh agrees, largely out of nostalgia for several happy summers he spent at St. Anselm's as a boy. No sooner does he arrive, however, than the college is torn apart by a sacrilegious and horrifying murder, and Dalgliesh finds himself ineluctably drawn into the labyrinth of an intricate and violent mystery.

Here P.D. James once more demonstrates her unrivaled skill in building a classic detective story into a fully realized novel, gripping as much for its psychological and emotional richness as for the originality and complexity of its plotting - and, of course, for the horror and suspense at its heart. Filled with unforgettable characters, brilliant in its evocation of the East Anglian scene and the religious background against which the action takes place, Death in Holy Orders again offers proof, if proof were needed, that P.D. James is not only the reigning master of the crime novel but also, simply, one of the finest novelists writing today.

©2001 by P.D. James (P)2001 Random House, Inc., Random House AudioBooks, a Division of Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Character, plot, and setting take equal part in the work of P.D. James, and never have they been in greater supply than in Death in Holy Orders." (The New York Times Book Review)"James at the top of her form." (The New Yorker)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall
  • Jannice
  • Sugar Land, TX, USA
  • 09-18-03

Death in Holy Orders - good PBS

I chose this title because I have enjoyed the Adam Dalgliesh stories on PBS' Mystery, and I wasn't disappointed. P D James is able to convey atmosphere and suspense in the locale and in the characters, so that I was able to envision the story as it unfolded. It may not have the breakneck speed of some American suspense stories, but it has it's own pace and remains true to it's path. I was not disappointed in the ending as others were - one of the traits of a good mystery is to give enough information for the reader to follow the trail along with the detective. Unpredictable twists that defy logic can ruin a mystery. I would love to see more PD James titles available, unabridged, please.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jack
  • Brisbane QLDAustralia
  • 01-20-05


This is the best audio book I've heard. The narration is excellent, perfectly paced for the subject, with great accents. The plot and characterisation sustain interest throughout.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

First timer

This was my first audiobook crime novel, and it kept me happily entertained for many hours while nursing a sick animal. I found it surprisingly sensitive, intriguing at every turn, so descriptive that I can still SEE the setting, and the plot carrot was always held within reach so I didn't get left behind. It was fun to turn the book off for a while and think about it before going back for more. An engrossing experience.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Architecture and Mortality

In her later books, P. D. James tends to Adam Dalgleish away from contemporary London to investigate some gothic murder in a closed environment, chipping away slowly at the warped psychology of a small group of suspects. In many was it is in such quasi 'locked room' mysteries that she is at her best - her books have never been procedurals, more meditations on human iniquity with Dalgleish as a flawed Gabriel. Though this is not quite as good as "Original Sin", James slowly weaves a dense, suspenseful narrative - unpeeling the onion layers of secrets, lies and sinfulness which bind the characters. The denouement is a little abrupt, but Michael Jayston, as always, is a magnificent narrator

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 07-28-09

Relaxing atmospheric listen

-not for fans of bubbly Stephanie Plum et. al. mysteries. Not literary enough to be a dense listen, but not fluff either.

This is very traditional British in mood (if that can be called a mood), as much about the setting, character and social relations as whodunnit- more details of a room's furniture or the sand along the beach than the fullness of a character's lips or breasts.

I liked the slow careful narration style-not many or varied voices, but more a book that is "read." This matched the precise and descriptive prose. The story winds along like the East Anglia coast and slowly uncovers what's hidden. This was my first PD James but not my last, even though I am not much of a mystery fan.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


Don't read this book if you don't care for masterfully written descriptions so alive that you can 'taste the air'. Avoid it if you don't care for a cultured British accent or a narration that is 'smooth as silk'. If mystery wrapped in suspense and punctuated by murder is not your thing...back away. Otherwise, dive in and enjoy! This is a wonderful read!!

16 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Only My Second "5"

It is that good. Wish Simon Preble had read it but he didn't.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

skillfully read

Terrific book enhanced by Charles Keating's brilliant narration. Keating never gets in the way by over-acting, yet subtly imbues the various characters with distinctive personalities. One of my favorite ever narration jobs.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • SherriA
  • Stamford, CT USA
  • 08-02-05

Get a better narrator!

I listened to this unabrigded audiobook during my daily commute back and forth to work. The story started out slowly and took me awhile to really get caught up in it. Part of that, I think, was due to the narrator. His voice never really drew me in and almost seemed irritating at times. Eventually, though, the plot started to move more quickly and I was sucked into the mystery. I really wanted to find out "whodunit" by the end, and there were so many reasonable possibilities!

This was my first Inspector Adam Dalgliesh novel. I didn't love the characters, but they were intriguing enough that I'll probably search out more in this series. With a different narrator, I think I would have enjoyed this book more and felt more involved with the characters. Next time I'll try a text version and see if that makes a difference.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Don't try to figure out this who-done-it ...

... just enjoy her elegant writing. P.D. James is eloquent in describing the brooding poet, Detective Adam Dalgliesh as he tries to discover who murdered an Anglican seminarian. At some point everyone is a suspect (which must be a requirement in English murder mysteries).

8 of 10 people found this review helpful