Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book Review: The Lighthouse - a novel by P D James

P D James creates a fictitious island called Combe near Cornwall, England. James populates Combe with a community of mostly elderly people who escape there—some are long time residents while others drop in for three months or so. Not any one can live on Combe or even visit without having specific inheritance rights or being bestowed rights. It is exclusive. The author explains the rationality of this exclusivity. The main character, Nathan Oliver, is an accomplished author. He is on his regular three month visit here when excitement brews on Combe. 

Before being exposed to the excitement, the reader is subjected to copious descriptions of each of the characters living on Combe—their likes and dislikes that highlight each personality. Each person has his or her own set routines that interfere with or complement with the residents. There are graphic details of the landscape—the position of the lighthouse, each person’s cottage or living accommodation. The residents are bound by supplies being transported by boat from the mainland that is operated by one of the residents.

In typical P D James style, the reader is then engrossed in solving the murder mystery that brings in the excitement. Adam Dalgliesh and his team are sent to the island, much to the chagrin of the residents, to solve the mystery. The author, cleverly, inflicts the SARS virus on one of the residents who inadvertently passes the virus onto Dalgliesh who is quarantined in the sickroom. The author enlightens the reader to the intricacies of the SARS virus and its impact on the residents. With Dalgleish out of the picture, Kate and her colleague, Benton are left to work on the murder mystery.

P D James, in a detailed manner, explains the art of solving murders through meticulous sifting of the evidence with the usual unsuspecting person identified as the cause of the murder mystery that envelopes this peaceful island of Combe.

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