Chana's Reviews > Death in Holy Orders

Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James
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Feb 08, 09

bookshelves: british, mystery-psychological
Read in December, 2006

I enjoyed the setting and I do like Commander Dalgliesh. The story was reasonably good. What I didn't understand was the author's sympathy for her priest character who has spent time in jail for molesting, although not raping, young boys. The author makes the rest of the characters, except one, sympathetic to this character with the idea that pursuing a conviction and jail time were betrayals, not Christian charity, too harsh. I didn't understand if this was just supposed to be part of the story or if this was the author's viewpoint. She seemed to be saying that a little fondling was not a crime. Excuse me? It certainly is. It was odd to read. The author worked in criminal justice. In fact there were some other disturbing sexual relations going on in this book at the theological college that everyone just kind of looked the other way. I don't remember this from other P.D. James books.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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Geoff I also noticed this and found it kind of strange. I think we are supposed to feel sympathetic to the Father John character, as if his wilingness to go to jail for a crime he committed is some tremendous act of moral courage, and the Archdeacon who rightly helps put him away is some terrible person for it.

Still liked the book though.


Aileen Yeah it was strikingly odd. Very strange values emerge from this novel.


Tara I agree. This issue made me dislike the novel, despite the good writing.


message 4: by Meg (new) - rated it 2 stars

Meg I also thought it was bizarre and somewhat disturbing.

There was no need plot-wise for everyone (including Dalgliesh&co) to be sorry for the molester and make excuses for him, so it felt as if the author was trying to convince the reader that it's ok if you "just" fondle some children. Made me think less of P.D.James.


Ellen Seltz Just finished this recently - I thought the relevant point about Father John was that he was convicted of a crime he did not commit, and the Archdeacon suborned perjury from unrelated witnesses - he did commit bad acts, but was unjustly convicted of a much more serious crime. And apparently he suffered a great deal at the hands of the other prisoners, and spent the rest of his life basically in hiding. It struck me as a meditation on "how much punishment is enough?"


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