Most of you know Auntie M adores Phyllis Dorothy James White, the former British Civil Servant who writes my favorite kind of mystery novel–full of the atmosphere of the setting, delving deeply into the psyche of the characters, and with a bloody good puzzle of a plot to round it all out. It’s a pet peeve of mine that mysteries are not considered ‘literary’ when there are some fine novels and writers in this genre, as in this case.
Baroness James of Holland Park has done it again with The Private Patient, and I vow not to give any of the details or plot points away for her fans. She continues to amaze me with the depth of her writing. The book is a must-read for mystery fans, featuring her poetry-writing Commander, Adam Dalgliesh, and his team, and is set at a private clinic in Dorset. A plastic surgeon’s clinic, which is ironic as Doc is a retired PlS, but I claim no influence there.
I am fortunate to have a correspondence with her after we met when I interviewed her in 1999. She wrote to me this fall that after a hip replacement operation she’d had a bout of heart failure, and spent the time in an Oxford rehab hospital where email and cell phones were forbidden, letting her finish this novel. She shows no signs of slowing down at 88, health permitted, and I for one am very pleased.
Doc showed me a recent article in the Wall St Journal about PDJ and the new book, and here’s what she has to say on the age old question of my pet peeve:
WSJ: What do you think about the assumption that detective novels are sub-literature?
PDJ: I think at its best the detective story can be literature, and certainly in England, that old feeling that this is inferior has just disappeared. I was chosen to be chair of the judges of the Booker prize, and I don’t think that would have happened if they thought I was dabbling in inferior literature. And I don’t think I would be in the House of Lords if they thought I was dabbling in inferior literature.
Nuff said. Great lady. Read the book~