Monday, 14 December 2020

Reindeer Readathon - The Private Patient

Reindeer Readathon Audiobook the Second. Ok, am still going strong but how much are we willing to be I’ll lose stream and read whatever calls to me like a siren? Anyone? And yes, most of my reads in the next few weeks/into 2021 sound very crime (am I turning to a crime book blogger? Surely not! I love YA and fantasy too much to do that, right?). Anyway, let’s get this post started, shall we? 

Title And Author: The Private Patient by PD James
Publisher: Faber
Physical, eBook or Audiobook: Audiobook
Bought, Borrowed or Gifted: Bought
Length: 416 Pages or 12 Hours 39 Minutes

The final Adam Dalgliesh novel (as well as penultimate novel PD James wrote before her death in 2014 [her last novel was Death Comes to Pemberley, a murder mystery sequel/fan-fic to Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice) and we see Dalgliesh and the team investigate the murder off notorious investigative journalist, Rhoda Gradwyn, who was strangled in a private clinic in Dorset after the successful removal of a disfiguring scar. But as the team try and solve the murder, the question of innocence and guilt become far more complicated and line more blurred…

I’ve only audiobooked one PD James’s novel before this (The Murder Room - link for that review is here) and I did enjoy it. And, at the time, I did enjoy listening to Private Patient. However, I finished the audiobook and felt… well… I felt a little unsatisfied. 

Stay with me. I will explain why in a moment. 

Like I said before with The Murder Room, I did like this. The writing is quite literary (though PD does have the habit to writing long paragraphs over details that don’t really matter in the scheme of things and things are long-winded) and the narrator of the audiobook is great. His voice was engaging and smoothing. And yes, this is more police prodcedial than I am used to (always nice to mix it up, right?). 

But the negatives. Oh, we have problems here, don’t we? I’m not sure how far I can go into explain my issues, but several things happen within this book that angered and frustrated and made me go “Ok, I’m unsatisfied”. First of all, this book has triggers (barring murder, of course). We have a subplot of a child’s murder (in the past and off page), a teacher fearing that he will be wrongly accused of being inappropriate with a child (in the past and we only really talk about this for a chapter. One chapter). But the biggest trigger I have issue with is an off-page violent assault and rape of a female character (not a main character, a female lesbian friend of Dalgliesh’s fiancé). This came out of nowhere and everything happening within this subplot was off page and was all resolved within a few chapters. This came across as a needless “shock” factor moment.

That’s with trigger, but the book’s biggest issue is the ending. We find out the killer and justice is delivered. You think that would be it, right? Nope, we have several chapters where the characters (suspects, detectives, even us readers) get the sense that maybe the killer wasn’t the killer and maybe they were covering for someone. Yes, in the eyes of the law, the case is solved, but is it? We never find out. I think I understand why PD James did this - she’s trying to show the not every case is going to be solve neatly. We have so many questions about Rhoda and her death and they aren’t solved. And yet, I feel like if authors are going to do that, they need to let their readers in on the truth. The characters can have this uneasy feeling but it feels like a con/cheat when the reader comes away from a mystery novel going “Wait, why’s the killer?”. 

You can, also, tell that this is the last book in the series. The last few chapters where readers/characters feel unsettled, most characters are getting happily ever afters. Fine, I can deal with that, but again, most of this happens off page. Again, if your main character is getting married and readers have been with him since the first book, Cover Her Face (first published in UK in 1962), you would think we would see the wedding… 

I admit that, out of the two PD James I have audiobooked, I much prefer The Murder Room. I do have other James’s work on my kindle TBR so I will read her over the next few months/years, but I might lower my expectations as, while I did like this, Private Patient feels very unsettled and left me with more questions than answers (and not in a good way, either). 

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