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The Private Patientby P. D. James
Synopses & Reviews
On November the twenty-first, the day of her forty-seventh birthday, and three weeks and two days before she was murdered, Rhoda Gradwyn went to Harley Street to keep a first appointment with her plastic surgeon, and there in a consulting room designed, so it appeared, to inspire confidence and allay apprehension, made the decision which would lead inexorably to her death. Later that day she was to lunch at The Ivy. The timing of the two appointments was fortuitous. Mr. Chandler-Powell had no earlier date to offer and the luncheon later with Robin Boyton, booked for twelve-forty-five, had been arranged two months previously; one did not expect to get a table at The Ivy on impulse. She regarded neither appointment as a birthday celebration. This detail of her private life, like much else, was never mentioned. She doubted whether Robin had discovered her date of birth or would much care if he had. She knew herself to be a respected, even distinguished journalist, but she hardly expected her name to appear in theTimes list of VIP birthdays.
She was due at Harley Street at eleven-fifteen. Usually with a London appointment she preferred to walk at least part of the way, but today she had ordered a taxi for ten-thirty. The journey from the City shouldn't take three-quarters of an hour, but the London traffic was unpredictable. She was entering a world that was strange to her and had no wish to jeopardise her relationship with her surgeon by arriving late for this their first meeting.
Eight years ago she had taken a lease on a house in the City, part of a narrow terrace in a small courtyard at the end of Absolution Alley, near Cheapside, and knew as soon as she moved in that this was the part of London in which she would always choose to live. The lease was long and renewable; she would have liked to buy the house, but knew that it would never be for sale. But the fact that she couldn't hope to call it entirely her own didn’t distress her. Most of it dated back to the seventeenth century. Many generations had lived in it, been born and died there, leaving behind nothing but their names on browning and archaic leases, and she was content to be in their company. Although the lower rooms with their mullioned windows were dark, those in her study and sitting room on the top storey were open to the sky, giving a view of the towers and steeples of the City and beyond. An iron staircase led from a narrow balcony on the third floor to a secluded roof, which held a row of terra-cotta pots and where on fine Sunday mornings she could sit with her book or newspapers as the Sabbath calm lengthened into midday and the early peace was broken only by the familiar peals of the City bells.
The City which lay below was a charnel house built on multilayered bones centuries older than those which lay beneath the cities of Hamburg or Dresden. Was this knowledge part of the mystery it held for her, a mystery felt most strongly on a bell-chimed Sunday on her solitary exploration of its hidden alleys and squares? Time had fascinated her from childhood, its apparent power to move at different speeds, the dissolution it wrought on minds and bodies, her sense that each moment, all moments past and those to come, were fused into an illusory present which with every breath became the unalterable, indestructible past. In the City of London these moments were caught and solidified in stone and brick, in churches and monuments a
When investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn turns up dead after seeing renowned plastic surgeon George Chandler-Powell for a routine surgical procedure, Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to investigate.
Cheverell Manor is a beautiful old house in Dorset, which its owner, the famous plastic surgeon George Chandler-Powell, uses as a privateclinic. When the investigative journalist, Rhoda Gradwyn, arrives to have a disfiguring facial scar removed, she has every expectation of a successful operation and a peaceful week recuperating. But theclinic houses an implacable enemy and within hours of the operation Rhoda is murdered. Commander Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate a case complicated by old crimes and the dark secretsof the past. But Before Rhoda's murder is solved, a second horrific death adds to the complexities of one of Dalgliesh's most perplexing and fascinating cases.
Fromthe Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
P. D. James is the author of nineteen previous books, many of which have been adapted for television in the United States; her novel The Children of Men became an internationally successful film in 2006. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Departments of the Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she celebrated her eightieth birthday and published her autobiography, A Time to Be in Earnest. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991. She lives in London and Oxford.
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