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The Black Tower (Adam Dalgliesh #5)

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  10,660 Ratings  ·  299 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 January 1st 1975)
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Jul 14, 2008 booklady rated it really liked it
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
Mar 20, 2009 Katharine rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
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
Oct 09, 2016 Lynn rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
P.D. James and I have a history. It's fraught with frequent absences and long periods of silence. Then I get it into my head that I need to reacquaint myself with one of the grande dames of mystery. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much. The Black Tower is one of my unsuccessful outings with James.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh receives a letter from a priest who was a family friend. Father Baddley requests that Dalgliesh visit him to provide professional advice. As Dalgliesh is recovering from a
Jul 09, 2014 Lisa rated it did not like it
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
Matthew L.
Apr 23, 2012 Matthew L. rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery
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
Feb 17, 2013 Divya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 07, 2008 Kirsten rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 12, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 26, 2014 Kyrie rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
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
I think that some of P.D. James' best books take place at remote locations or on islands. While this book is on the mainland, it's in a hospital for handicapped adults on the coast high on a cliff by the sea in Dorset, very similar to the island location in The Lighthouse. Dalgleish goes to the clinic to visit his father's old curate, but finds that the man has died before he arrives. There are mysterious staff members who wear hooded robes and some of the patients clearly dislike some of the st ...more
Oct 06, 2008 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Shelves: adult-fiction
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.
Jan 06, 2016 Julie rated it it was ok
The who with the what now? Now I know that P.D. James' character Adam Dalgliesh is known for suddenly having an ah-ha moment that brings all of the clues together and solves the crime. Ordinarily, I'm fine with that. But in this book, there are so many characters, so many crimes that Adam isn't even working on solving (he is visiting an old friend who lives in the compound of a convalescent home) and yet, at the end, he totally pulls the solution out of thin air! Worst denouement ever!
Lauren Albert
Jan 29, 2016 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2016 Kathy rated it really liked it
Shelves: pd-james
Again, like her others, I love the characters & exposition of the majority of the book, but mystified by some of the twists with the final reveal. Always feel like she pulls in a new element from out of thin air, unconnected to & not even hinted at in the rest of the book.
May 10, 2016 Lizzy rated it liked it
AD is convalescing as he also tries to solve the mystery of why his priest friend wanted to see him. Alas, he's dead and so begins the dropping bodies. The name were confusing at first as she uses both names at different times. It was atmospheric but not gripping.
Kathleen Wells
Sep 25, 2016 Kathleen Wells rated it liked it
A good mystery. I had a little bit of trouble keeping all the characters straight.
3.5 /5

Another mystery done with and dusted up, this year.

As my most crime thriller reads are, this too was an impulse read, just to counterbalance the various slow paced, no-violence-involved, family oriented dramas that I was reading. P D James has always remained one of my favourite authors, because I savor the type of slightly soporific murder stories that she tells giving more importance to the surroundings and characters, and with a familiar chief investigator, in this case, Superintendent
Jan 19, 2016 Lauren rated it liked it
Excellent climax, and I enjoyed the deeper look into Dalgliesh's character, but the plot was way, way too slow. This is a crime fiction novel -- we all know from the get-go that there's going to be foul play behind most, probably all, the deaths that occur. So it's very frustrating to have to read a couple of hundred pages before Dalgliesh, now a Commander at the Met, allows himself to really acknowledge the same thing.

It's the exact opposite defect to that which wrecked Unnatural Causes, but th
Jul 18, 2009 Melody rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels, mystery-crime
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
May 19, 2016 Jordan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery
My first time reading a P. D. James/Adam Dalgliesh mystery, and it was so much more than I had expected. For some reason, I’ve always lumped P. D. James in with the like of Patricia Cornwall and Stephen King, and nothing could be further from a true classification. The writing itself was excellent, the psychologizing top rate, the mystery itself complex and expertly handled. The story follows Dalgliesh as he is recovering from a bout of serious illness which, when he had thought it would be fata ...more
May 25, 2016 Richard rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
In an age of television detection in which crimes are often investigated using the most sophisticated technological and psychological tools, and solved by painstaking analysis of the tiniest minutiae of evidence, it comes as something of a surprise that the most striking death in this novel is one that is never officially classified as a crime. But whereas The Black Tower has most of the hallmarks of a conventional murder mystery - including a group of interconnected characters in a remote, encl ...more
Jan 12, 2014 Liza rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 24, 2015 Ron rated it really liked it
Shelves: large-print-read
I'd never read any P.D. James before. I think The Black Tower was probably a good choice to begin with. If this book isn't an example of mystery literature then I really don't know what is. Although, it was a bit difficult to read in spots, in all, it was a fine story and wonderful characters. Even the ones we weren't supposed to like were well defined.

I'll probably read more Adam Dagliesh books, but, at the moment, I don't have a definite choice in mind. If this one is any example, I don't thin
Sep 18, 2014 Eduardo rated it it was ok
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
Sep 21, 2012 Liz rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery-uk
I usually like PD James but I just could not get into this one. Too many characters whose relationships were not made clear, and none of whom were memorable enough that I could remember who was who. I powered through, and honestly, even the last 20 pages were a bit torturous. I'll come right out and say it- I didn't really care what happened, and just sort of skimmed it just to be able to feel like I had finished the book.
Nov 07, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok
I had such a hard time getting through it. I also thought there were several things that were confusing -- I never figured out what the murderer was doing there in the first place (I'm sure I read about his role somewhere at the beginning of the book and forgot about it). And I never really understood why it the book is called "The Black Tower" -- it seems to me like the tower didn't have that much to do with the story. I just thought it was really boring.

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.
May 06, 2013 Sharon rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 15, 2009 KA rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
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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)
  • 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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