The Black Tower

The Black Tower - P.D. James [These notes were made in 1990:]. Once in a while, a bookstore shelf provides a pleasant surprise - in this case a P.D. James I hadn't read, and just as psychologically complex as anything she has written more recently. A daring start - she has Adam Dalgliesh in emotional turmoil following a mistaken diagnosis of leukaemia. Feeling fragile himself, he goes off into a community of the fragile - a private home for the disabled on a coastline dominated by a dismal black tower (with an equally dismal history). He arrives to find that two suspicious deaths have occurred recently, including that of the innocuous old priest he had come to visit. There are any number of surreptitious grudges, skeletons in closets, and illicit affairs going on among the residents and their assorted appendages. I tensed when it became clear that James was setting up Julius Court, a lonely man living on the very edge (lovely symbolic landscapes) as both homosexual & villain. I am most unsympathetic to the practice of making a character homosexual in order to indicate inner decay. However, though Court did turn out to be the villain, his is not an Iago-like villainy, but a most believable and lucrative heroin-smuggling operation, for which several people die, having been inconvenient witnesses. P.D. James' corpus is small but valuable and, I'm glad to say, still growing. What a delight to find this early one!