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The Black Tower (Adam Dalgliesh #5)

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  8,704 ratings  ·  237 reviews
Scotland Yard Inspector Adam Dalgliesh races to solve a twisted murder in bestselling author P.D. James’ classic mystery The Black Tower, hailed as “splendid, macabre” by the London Sunday Telegraph and “a masterpiece,” by the London Sunday Times.

Just recovered from a grave illness, Commander Adam Dalgliesh receives a call for advice from the elderly chaplain at Toynton Gr
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Touchstone (first published 1975)
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Community Reviews

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Dec 13, 2014 booklady rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery lovers
Shelves: 2008, mystery, crime
The best I've read by James yet. Not sure if James or Inspector Dalgliesh are growing on me. Both are acquired tastes I'm convinced of that. The fact that James is a subtle writer and Adam is a not very charming sleuth don't really explain anything...or do they? In this story, we catch a few more glimpses into the mysterious character of our detective. I find myself liking Adam in spite of himself, or is it because I feel sorry for him? He's brilliant, cold, aloof, calculating and a born investi ...more
P.D. James begins this 1975 mystery with a medical misdiagnosis of Adam Dalgliesh, Scotland Yard Detective. Doctors have labeled his ailment leukemia, a life-threatening disease that focuses Adam's mind on his mortality. Would he rather spend his life writing poetry and listening to Vivaldi recordings on the stereo instead of putting himself daily in harms way?

On an extended convalescence leave, Dalgliesh accepts an invitation from Father Baddeley, Chaplain of Toynton Grange on the Dorset coast
Continuing my investigation of a new author for me, I got a couple more PD James novels at the library. I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that James is not worth reading when she tries to be deep and thought-provoking and to elucidate Serious Themes. Because she just comes across as ponderous, self-important, and well, boring.

The Black Tower is an okay mystery, I guess, but I had a really hard time getting into the story and as it progressed I wasn't particularly entertained. The writin
Jan C
Maybe 1\2.

Adam Dalgliesh learns a little something about false diagnoses. Then he goes to visit a friend who apparently died just before he arrives. The friend was working as a counselor/priest at a nursing home (?) for quadriplegics at a converted estate. But the bodies keep falling and they all appear to be natural causes. There were too many for natural causes to have killed them all.

All this while Adam is considering leaving the Met.

This was okay but as I was listening to this today, I kin
Matthew L.
Hoo boy.

This book is the definition of the word slow. It is a convalescence book about a character to whom I had little to no connection. I wonder if I would have felt differently if I had read any other books starring Adam Dalgliesh, but I didn't and I found the references to the case he was recovering from kind of irritating. Like an in-joke to which I wasn't privy.

I loved the sense of the solitude and reduced speed of Dorset, but it took too long to get to the action and I had very little att
This is possibly one of James's most introspective and well-handled mysteries. Recovering from a severe illness and newly aware of his mortality, Adam Dalgliesh makes the decision to leave the police force. Before returning to tender his resignation, however, he decides to visit an old friend who has written him alluding to a need for advice. Father Michael is the chaplain at Toynton Grange, a home for the "young disabled" in Dorset, and it seems like as good a place as any to convalesce. When D ...more
A short take:

James writes sensual prose, while Dalgliesh continues to pull me in. I didn't go for his resolution to leave police work, but then, I know that 9 more books follow this volume, so there were no stakes in this prospect for me. As usual, the mystery, itself, is secondary to the character histories that manifest during the ensuing investigation. James is very good at writing about people and the complicated muddle they make of their lives. Murder is nasty; reading this book was pleasan
Rather disappointing. I picked this book up at a book sale for a song, mostly because the cover advertised the book as "Agatha Christie's Crown Princess" and being a Christie fan I thought I'd try it out. The story was long, boring, and the mystery easy to figure out. Very few of the characters had any appeal to me and quite honestly, I skipped parts just to get through to the end. Sorry to say, I don't think I'll try any more of PD James's books.
I don't understand how anyone can like this book.

Take the spitefulness of Melrose Place, add the sex appeal of Confederacy of Dunces, and sprinkle on the inanity of a Jane Austen heroine (none of it in a good way) and you've got The Black Tower. Who would ever do any of the things that the characters do in this book? And they do boring things, by the way, nonsensically boring - the worst kind of boring. Let's eat together every night in silence except for we'll take turns reading boring stuff a
I love P.D. James, but I wasn't crazy about this one. Because this novel takes place in a nursing home of sorts, the characters are all wracked with physical deformities. Their loss of limbs and bodily functions has left an emptiness that is so filled with self-hatred, spite, and anger that I found many of them off-putting and difficult to read. But then, that's the point, isn't it.

P.D. James is great because she's always dealing with some major philosophical issue, and in this book, she was dea
I believe that this is one of the most popular books by P. D. James, but I found it fairly boring, too long, uninteresting (as a mystery novel), and almost formulaic in its plot and concept. So much so that it has for a while --hopefully-- removed in me the desire to keep reading her, as was my plan. I gave it two stars because some of the characters are kind-of-salvageable and the first third of the novel promised some good reading that did not materialize eventually, as it dragged on and on to ...more
I picked up this book hoping to find another murder-mystery author I could enjoy as much as I do Christie.
This book takes place in a nursing home for the invalid. Where people are killed off one after the other is what seem like accidents. Inspector Dalgliesh slowly tries to pu pieces together and get to the bottom of the killings.
The plot is tedious. The narrative creaks and groans and whimpers and almost left me in a stupor.
And having reached the end of the book I'm surprised I made it till t
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
As a child, I fed on mystery stories. Be they Famous fives or Secret Seven... I joined hands with the Three Investigators, deciphering clue after clue and wished from the bottom of my heart that I had a boyfriend as charming as Ned Nickerson from Nancy Drew. As I grew up, my diet changed and I was introduced to Agatha Christies, Erle Stanley Gardeners and Marry Higgins Clark who kept me on the edge of my seat and biting my nails till there were none left.

And then came along P.D. James; an author
Sandra Danby
A sinister mystery this, partly location, and partly the feeling that Dalgliesh is not operating at the full capacity of his deductive powers. He has been ill and goes to Dorset to convalesce, to visit an elderly friend. His love and energy for detecting are muted, there are hints he may not continue.
On arrival in Dorset he finds his friend, Father Baddeley has died. Dalgliesh is inevitably drawn into the daily life at Toynton Hall, the care home at which the Father was chaplain. All is not as
Michael A
PD James, at least in so much as she matures, is interested in two main things and one minor thing in her writing. Among the major points, one is the need to give us a highly introspective detective who goes so far to question his experiences and role as a detective. This element is novel and interesting to read about in small doses. The second is anchoring these stories in her real-life experiences with the NHS. I will have to trust to her on that point since she would know better than I do. Th ...more
I can't recall whether it was The Black Tower or a different book by P.D.James which was recommended to me among a sea of other "crime" books that should absolutely be read by anyone who likes the genre.

Perhaps it was a different book. I hope it was a different book. It's more than possible I was merely unlucky in picking up The Black Tower as my first book to read by P.D.James. I'd prefer it to be that way.

You see, I wasn't overly impressed by The Black Tower. Indeed, I put down the book with a
P. D. James is an excellent writer and a clever plotter, but this mystery moves far too slowly. Only one or two of the characters (not counting Father Baddeley) is the least likeable and most of them are quite repugnant. Perhaps James was laying out varying sorts of evil behavior--from unkindness to jealously to getting even to exploitation to blackmail to murder--for us to observe, and gradually showing us why and how these actions came about, and they did contribute to the plot, but I found mu ...more
Ana Bolox
Una nueva novela de la recientemente(y desgraciadamente para sus aficionados, como yo) fallecida, P. D. James, en la que un grupo heterogéneo de personajes se mueve a la sombra de una institución sanitaria especializada en patologías degenerativas.

Un rosario de muertes aparentemente naturales sorprende a Dalgliesh cuando nuestro policía acude a visitar a un viejo amigo, sacerdote que fue ayudante de su padre, y lo encuentra muerto. Con la permanente sospecha por parte de Dagliesh de que no hay n
The usual PD James. Great Dalgliesh but a little different than the rest. He's off on his own, not trying to solve a murder. They just seem to find him! No other Scotland Yard types either. Adam, some questionable deaths, and a creepy black tower next to the sea in Dorset. If you're a fan of James, you'll like it. If you are a fan of tense British mystery, you'll like it and you'll be hooked.

This one is more an atmospheric murder mystery with an aura of angst, sorrow, regrets (mostly coming from Adam Dalgliesh's) and the malicious intents and actions coming from the tennants of the home. Dalgliesh's brush with death is like a grey cloud over the whole novel. Not a bad mystery but a melancolic and sorrowful one.
One of the things I love about James is her attention to place, and the importance she affords it. Also, place is not the subject of tediously long-winded descriptions (as in Hardy's prose) or the overwrought romanticism of the pathetic fallacy (as in the Brontes). But it is still much more than mere setting.
Dalgliesh is recovering from a serious illness and gets a letter from an old family friend who's working at a home for the disabled? Permanently ill? Not sure exactly what to call the place - it's not a nursing home for the elderly, but it's definitely a care place.

Anyhow, the writing was difficult for me. It was like being ill along with Dalgliesh and not being able to quite grasp things or wondering if I had a fever again or what.

I don't usually care for the list of characters at the beginning
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Despite being written several years ago, this mystery still holds suspense until the final pages. It is also a great way to increase your vocabulary as P.D. James makes full use of the English Language.
Sep 07, 2015 Nancy added it
she did get a little ponderous in her later books, but this one, from 1975, though serious, is not heavy reading. favorite quotation:
Every death benefited someone, enfranchised someone, lifted a burden from someone's shoulders, whether of responsibility, the pain of vicarious suffering or the tyranny of love.
Spoiler alert: there is one big messy plot hole, which is not at all typical of this author. there is a question of someone's inheriting 19,000 pounds, which would presumably solve the fina
British English plus the dated language creates a sense the book was translated from another language. Like "The Millennium Trilogy" by Larsson, a few moments to train your brain to the subtle language and writing differences might be needed.

All in all I found the novel entertaining. For all of James experience in working in law enforcement I might expect this to be more of a procedural crime novel. Not really.

The great reveal at the end was sort of bewildering. One is led to think crimes are
...P.D. James, judging from this book, follows the crime, detective genre that is most reminiscent of Agatha Christie. Instead of the usual red herrings, twists and turns of Christie's novels, however, P.D. James is more brooding, and philosophical . "The Black Tower" ruminates on mortality, cult-like personalities, and physical disabilities in the shadow of murder .

P.D. James' style won't appeal for those looking for a quick page-turner on the beach. I found myself reaching for the dictionary f
This book, the 5th in the Adam Dalgliesh series, wasn't a bad read. It's set in a private nursing home where terminally ill patients and their Church of England priest die semi-unexpectedly within a few weeks of each other. Dalgliesh happened to be there because he was a friend of the priests, and happened to be invited to come and stay just before the priest died.

I've said this about a number of early James books, and it bears repeating here. The book themselves aren't bad, but they do feel dat
My continued resist of P.D. James's mysteries. Dalgliesh is recovering from what was once thought to be acute leukemia and is then determined to be a bad case of mononucleosis. He decides to continue his recovery by visiting an old priest who once was his father's curate many years ago. The priest now resides at a home for chronically ill and disabled young people on the coast of Dorsetshire. When he arrives, he finds that the priest has died, a death everyone says was natural since the man was ...more
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P. D. (Phyllis Dorothy) James was the author of 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 the BB
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)
  • Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh, #3)
  • Shroud for a Nightingale (Adam Dalgliesh, #4)
  • 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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