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Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh #3)

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  8,994 Ratings  ·  352 Reviews
Award-winning author P.D. James third mystery in her bestselling series featuring Scotland Yard investigator Adam Dalgliesh is now available on CD!

Maurice Seton was a famous mystery writer–but no murder from his imagination could equal the ghastliness of his own death. When his grotesquely mutilated corpse is found in a drifting dinghy, ripples of horror spread among his b
Audio, 0 pages
Published December 9th 2008 by Random House Audio (first published 1967)
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May 25, 2016 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Published in 1967, this is the third Adam Dalgliesh mystery; following on from “Cover Her Face” and “A Mind to Murder.” Dalgliesh is still involved with Deborah Riscoe, who appeared in the first novel, and is considering whether or not to propose to her. Does he love her enough to change his life and perhaps put his work second? While considering this change, he goes to stay with his aunt, Jane Dalgliesh. An avid bird watcher, she lives in a small community near Monksmere bird reserve, which see ...more
May 31, 2012 Laura rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although P.D. James is an excellent writer and her mysteries are interesting and intelligent, I just can't seem to warm up to Adam Dalgliesh. He's such a cold fish and it doesn't help that he--or James, through him--seems to have a certain disdain for the audience, who are the "suspects" in Dalgliesh's case and the reader in James's case.

In this mystery, James avoids a typical "reveal" where Dalgliesh sits everyone down and lets them and the reader know how and why the crime occurred. Instead,
Aug 01, 2009 Starling rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 14, 2014 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 20, 2007 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is the best P. D. James I've read so far. The story is a ripper. It has a surprising metafictional quality to it due to the fact that most of the characters are writers and the victim is a mystery writer. This gives the reader some rather enjoyable moments of irony and self-referential playfulness. James's writing is, as always, absolutely great--intelligent without overshadowing the story or bringing too much attention to itself. The first few pages in particular are deliciously en ...more
Jan 18, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short take:

I am sad to write that this book is my least favorite of the first three Dalgliesh books. I pined for a more urban location--London circa the late 60s would have been a far more interesting setting--and I lost interest in the cast of suspects. The finale is droll and disappointing: I know James is a better writer. The one ingredient that kept me involved was, of course, Dalgliesh.

I am seriously considering following this book with the next volume--which I don't often do in this gen
Apr 15, 2009 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed the quality of the prose but found it difficult to sympathize with any of the characters. Even Dalgliesh and his Aunt–both of whom seem to have more dimension that the other flat, insipid, self absorbed residents of Monksmere Head–were provided with so little context and backstory that I felt very little connection. Aunt Jane seemed to be someone I would like to know better, but James never provides the reader with the chance in this book. And the revelation of the murderer a ...more
In this third Adam Dalgleish mystery, I've come to realize that with P.D. James, the pleasure is in the prose and the characters, not so much in solving the mystery. Unlike some writers who plant clues and red herrings so the reader can attempt to keep up with the detective and solve the case, James' mysteries (at least those I've read so far) end in unpredictable ways because they hinge on information the reader cannot know or predict. Usually I find a mystery that springs information on the re ...more
As always, PD James's greatest strength is her prose. It's excellent. And even though I didn't get as good a grasp on the characters in Unnatural Causes as I did when I read the first two AD novels, I was generally okay with her characterisation work here too.

I say "generally", because the eventual murderer's personality and motivations made absolutely no impression on me at all. Even during the climactic (and otherwise well-written) scene of the novel I was thinking, "Really? Them? Is this a f
Sep 22, 2012 Lynn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book could be called "Unnecessarily Complicated Causes." It also suffered from a fair amount of boring descriptive passages about scenery and houses, and characters who were too similar and ill-defined to keep track of. It ended with a too-convenient confession on tape, found after the murderer too-conveniently died. Also, the murderer's death comes at the end of a superficially dramatic adventure scene, involving an attempted rescue from a flooding house during a storm, which was irrelevan ...more
Sep 26, 2015 Siv30 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
הספר השלישי מתרכז בדמותו של אדם דגליש. לאחר תקופה לחוצה ופיענוח פרשיית רצח, יוצא הבלש לנפוש אצל דודתו במונקסמיר ולקבל החלטה בדבר המשך יחסיו עם דבורה ריסקו. דבורה רוצה להתחתן, ודגליש צריך לקבל החלטה האם להפוך אותה לחלק מרכזי בחייו?

כבר בלילה הראשון כשהוא מגיע לדודתו, מתחילה להתגלגל הפרשייה, שהוא לא ממונה על פיתרונה, אלא יותר משמש כמשקיף, המעניק לקורא מהתובנות שלו.

הסופרת מכירה את בני עמה התחרותיים והקטנוניים משהו. מרוכזים בעיקר בעצמם ובהצלחה שלהם. קבוצת סופרים של ספרי מתח ומבקרי ספרי מתח שהאגו שלהם
May 21, 2011 jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third of the Adam Dalgliesh series. I've read the first but not the second, but that hasn't lessened the story here at all.

Dalgliesh is looking forward to a few weeks of relaxation during his holiday at the seashore with his aunt at her cottage. She lives in a small village that seems to house nothing but writers, a place where everyone enjoys their solitude. But as soon as he arrives a writer is murdered,the corpse mutilated and Dalgliesh finds himself at odds with the local Inspect
Feb 11, 2009 Nancy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was disappointed by the book, probably because the author had been highly praised both by my husband and various members of my reading group. I thought the ending was bad—everything wrapped up in a confession tape. She says Dalgliesh had things figured out before hand, but doesn’t let us know how he came to his conclusions. I didn’t find myself particularly fond of any of the characters, unless it was Dalgliesh’s Aunt Jane, who plays a minor role, more of a device just to get him to Monksmere ...more
Sylvia Kelso
May 09, 2013 Sylvia Kelso rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read 6 James books trying to get on friendly terms with this writer and her detective, Inspector/Chief Inspector/Commander Dalgliesh, and failed. A lot of that failure I set at said detective's door: if I'm going to read a detective series using a single detective/investigator as pov and protagonist, that figure needs to be not only intelligent and preferably complex but sympatico. Not necessarily faulty, but certainly of flesh and blood, with some sort of emotions beyond detachment, and conne ...more
Apr 03, 2014 Taysha rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one
In Unnatural Causes, P.D. James leads the reader into a fictional world in which famous writer Maurice Seton has just been murdered and the whole of a small community of writers are now living in suspicion and fear awaiting either the next murder, the capture, or both.

Adam Dalgliesh is ostensibly the hero of this story. However, from the beginning I recognized that the "un-involvement" he accuses his aunt of after the unveiling the murderer describes the entirety of his attitude both towards hi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan C
Nov 12, 2014 Jan C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, library, audio, 2014
Before I started I couldn't remember whether I had read this before or not. I don't think I read this one. I think I would remember this.

A couple of years ago I decided to go back to the beginning and work my way through. I am finding that I haven't read as many of her books as I thought I had. Either that, or my memory isn't what I thought it was. Because no bells are going off.

I listened to this one. Adam Dalgliesh takes an annual visit to his elderly aunt on the shore (and don't ask me what
Jun 27, 2013 Boone rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After three Dalgliesh books I'm having trouble warming to the series. I'll read the fourth installment to see if I like it any better, otherwise, I'm out. I can generally knock out a good book in two or three days if I'm really enjoying it but these have taken me weeks to read. I was tempted to give it two stars because of the ridiculousness of the ending. The killer, in grave peril from rising water, has a small sack of belongings that they are saving from the flood, into which they have placed ...more
May 03, 2014 Filip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It would be a five-star novel if not for the ending. I cannot even say it is bad, seems the author prefers to finish her stories in this way and while I respect it, I am not a fun of such endings. I prefer to learn the motive, the way how crime was committed from the detective, learning how did he piece the facts together... not have him simply state that "he knew it" after all is known, especially if his actions before would be very, very strange if he indeed knew the identity of the perpetrato ...more
Jul 10, 2009 Abbi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've started reading my way through P.D. James (perhaps July is a month of mystery, as that seems to be what is capturing my interest now), and I really liked this book. Several books further on in the series, and this is still my favorite of the Dalgliesh mysteries.

I think I liked it because it is entirely (or almost entirely) from Dalgliesh's point of view. I like a good mystery, but part of a book is the character development. James has a tendency to write different sections/chapters from di
Nov 08, 2014 Kyrie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
That was depressing. Okay, murder shouldn't be uplifting, I admit, but this one was just melancholy and got sadder as it went on.

Dalgliesh goes on a holiday after a grueling case and is staying with his aunt in Sussex when a body is found in a dinghy. The hands have been cut off. While the local police don't call him in to help, or even really want his help, they're willing enough to listen to a colleague. Especially since the colleague is more or less part of the group of suspects.

I had a diff
An enjoyable P.D. James, although not my favorite of hers—a little too clever-clever with the murder plot and the big reveal (almost a bit Agatha Christie, which isn't something I necessarily look for from James) and I wasn't wild about the fact that Dalgliesh not only figures out such an extraordinarily convoluted scenario without any concrete means of doing so, but also that the How and Why details are withheld from the reader for so long. It seems a bit showy and is also an artificial way of ...more
Oct 08, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mysteries
I've always enjoyed reading books by P.D. James, especially when I travel. This murder mystery takes place in an isolated British writers' community inhabited by some quirky residents. A writer is found in a boat that drifts ashore with his hands cut off. Vacationing Scotland yard detective superintendent Adam Dalgliesh is sucked into the case because he is staying with his aunt in the area at the time.

Unnatural Causes is not the best of the Dalgliesh novels, but it is quite good.
Nov 20, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction
One of P.D. James' early ones. Well-written but as with other James's, the murder seems overly complicated and the motive less than convincing.

I've read three of hers recently, and I think she's gotten better with her later police procedurals. But, a few things seem to be constants:
~there will be at least one more murder after the initial one
~the community from which the murderer will be found is tight and isolated: an island, a group of judges, a small oceanside town.
~the death will be complica
In the end it was an excellent mystery and PD James writes some interesting characters. That said, I'm beginning dislike Dalgliesh after this novel (my 3rd AD novel). In this one he seems to have saved up all his dislike of humanity and private judgements against them. He didn't seem to have much compassion for any of the other characters - including his Aunt and his girlfriend.

The last Dalgliesh novel I read he was barely in it because he got sick (The Lighthouse), now I'm wondering if that's w
This was my first time reading P.D. James. The book was fine but I am so used to Agatha Christie now that I don't have as much fun reading a mystery that doesn't give you the clues to solve it yourself. I like a more active mystery reading experience. Sherlock Holmes stories are an exception because he is a wonderful character and describes his process. At the end of this book Dalgliesh just says he knew the answer all along but James never tells us how he came to it, which was very frustrating.
May 24, 2009 Peter rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, mystery
This is the third James book I've read so far. I enjoyed the story but I was a little put off by the 10 page long explanation at the end... really really far fetched. The climactic scene was great however, well written... James is a fine write, the whole book is well written, of course... also, this is only her third book and was written 42 years ago, so I'd imagine that her later books have more plausible solutions...
Nov 08, 2008 Moira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is just really good writing - literary and yet still telling a great story. The climax was so exciting I could hardly breath. Why didn't I give it a "5"? I felt that the explanation, the unraveling of hte mystery via a very, very long confession letter was just too pat, too old-fashioned. And there was so much that had to be explained, which suggests that there should have been a few more clues along the way. However, a small point in an otherwise really good read.
Ann M
I'd give this book four stars for its writing but I really disliked one thing about it. The entire mystery is summed up in the final few pages, by a confession, no less, and there aren't any clues before that. It's almost as if anyone could have "dunnit." Her later work is much more graceful and enticing, what I've read of it. This is from 1967.
Saman Kashi
خانم(پی. دی. جیمز) از نویسندگان صاحب سبک رمانهای پلیسی محسوب میشود. در رمان (انگیزههای غیر طبیعی)، کارآگاه-شاعر این داستان،(دالگلایش) را در یکی از جذابترین نقشهایش مشاهده میکنیم. نقشی دشوار و پر خطر که فقط این کارآگاه با دقت و باریکبینی و با به خطر انداختن جان خود از عهدهی انجام آن بر میآید ...more
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Discussing the Ending (SPOILERS) 1 9 Aug 03, 2015 06:58AM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: Unnatural Causes 1 4 Dec 31, 2012 04:22PM  
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P.D. (Phyllis Dorothy) James was the author of over twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain's Home Office. She served as a magistrate and as a governor of th
More about P.D. James...

Other Books in the Series

Adam Dalgliesh (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh, #1)
  • A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh, #2)
  • Shroud for a Nightingale (Adam Dalgliesh, #4)
  • The Black Tower (Adam Dalgliesh, #5)
  • Death of an Expert Witness (Adam Dalgliesh, #6)
  • A Taste for Death (Adam Dalgliesh, #7)
  • Devices and Desires (Adam Dalgliesh, #8)
  • Original Sin (Adam Dalgliesh, #9)
  • A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh, #10)
  • Death in Holy Orders (Adam Dalgliesh, #11)

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