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The Black Tower

(Adam Dalgliesh #5)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  14,548 ratings  ·  387 reviews
Commander Dalgliesh is recuperating from a life-threatening illness when he receives a call for advice from an elderly friend who works as a chaplain in a home for the disabled on the Dorset coast. Dalgliesh arrives to discover that Father Baddeley has recently and mysteriously died, as has one of the patients at Toynton Grange. Evidently the home is not quite the caring c ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published October 2nd 2001 by Scribner (first published 1975)
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  14,548 ratings  ·  387 reviews

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Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first book of my 2019 P.D. James read-a-thon is done.

I saw the film adaptation years ago, so it was playing along in my head as I was reading the story. So it made the book even more enjoyable. I forgot what happened in the ending, so I had a delightful surprise with the ending.

Now onto the next one.
Mar 20, 2009 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
Jul 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mystery lovers
Shelves: 2008, crime, mystery
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
Oct 09, 2016 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 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
Romi || Romi Reads
I remember watching the TV series adaptation of this book when I was younger and I found it quite ... mysterious and dark. It wasn't like any other detective series I'd seen and it stuck with me ever since. I took some of the mysterious feelings with me when I started reading The Black Tower and soon I discovered that it also read differently from any other murder mysteries I've read so far. P.D. James goes deeper than, for instance, Agatha Christie does: Dalgliesh is much more of a round charac ...more
Matthew L.
Apr 23, 2012 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 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
Nov 26, 2014 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've lost track of how many P.D. James mysteries are set at medical facilities, but it's getting ridiculous. This one is pretty tedious up until the last 30 pages or so. We have a bunch of convalescents, some seriously ill or dying, in wheelchairs (this makes pushing them off cliffs easier). Commander Dalgliesh, himself convalescing from mono that the doctors at first thought was leukemia, serendipitously ends up among them, as they begin to die, apparently from suicide or natural causes. It tak ...more
Feb 07, 2008 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
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
Oct 06, 2008 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.
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thrillers
On with my reread of PD James’ Adam Dalgliesh series. This is the first book that really starts to resemble her more modern day writing and also starts to showcase her own writing style. Before, we have followed an Agatha Christie type format and this was good, but not great.
This novel gives us far more background and characterisation of Adam Dalgliesh and is bound up in his past. This, as always, is a great way of giving us a more detailed and rounded character, without just saying it.
Cokey Cohen
James can write a well-constructed mystery but comparisons to Sayers (as found on the cover of my edition) are ludicrous, mostly because her writing lacks any of the humor and even levity that makes Sayers so endearing. Depressed, allegedly “poetic” Dalgliesh is a far cry from shell-shocked but determinedly, delightfully witty Peter Wimsey. I find James’s books pretentious and sometimes sloggingly depressing—but, again, she writes a good mystery, which is hard enough to find that I put up with t ...more
Barbara Heckendorn
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was a pleasant hearing, although I would not classify this Dalgliesh book as excellent. Dalgliesh is in a recovery phase and visits an old friend at his request. Unfortunately, he is late because his friend died a few days ago. It is striking that Dalgliesh is always a tad too late in this book. He realizes that there is something bad at work, but there are dead before he finds out anything.
Apr 12, 2015 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
Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 18, 2014 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
Jan 06, 2016 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 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 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.
Aug 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The good part: P. D. James writes great detective stories, thick with dread and tension. This story unspools indirectly but effectively, and a couple times I found myself turning pages wide-eyed, furiously trying to get through a highly fraught episode. We stay mainly in Dalgliesh’s mind, except when James wants to step in with a phrase like “The next day, on the last day of her life...”.

The bad part: like Graham Greene and, to a certain extent, Ruth Rendell (and a boatload of British TV detecti
Karl Jorgenson
Oct 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
So-o-o-o many characters. James is the mistress of character. Sadly, I can't keep track. Every character has a story, every story has secrets, and somebody died accidentally, or did they? Dalgliesh is trying to convalesce by visiting an old acquaintance, only to find him dead among a remote, seaside home for adults suffering degenerative diseases.
I felt, as I have felt with previous James mysteries, that it took too long for the reader to glimpse a main plot behind all the petty rivalries, secr
Brian Grover
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
My first P.D. James mystery, and probably my last. Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh is summoned to visit an elderly priest he knew in his youth, but when he arrives he learns the priest has died of a heart attack. For some reason, Dalgliesh suspects foul play from the start, and when patients in the nearby convalescent hospital start dropping dead from seemingly innocent causes, he looks deeper.

I didn't find this story particularly interesting in the telling, but I was still interested unt
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After Shroud for a Nightingale I just had to read more of the Dalgliesh series. This was another great installment, somewhat more personal and more focused on the detective. The claustrophobic atmosphere was again very well created and every character just came to life: I found them annoying, hated them and pitied them as the story went along. Really incredible! I can't wait to pick up the next book of this series!
Liz Mc2
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, mystery
I wondered listening to this whether James’ portrayal of the home for disabled young adults was partly inspired by L’Arche, on my mind due to Jean Vanier’s recent death. The portrayal of patients was probably progressive for the time this was written, although some of the language/attitudes to disability seem problematic today.

I haven’t read James for a long time and am struck by the fact that all three Dalgliesh books I’ve recently listened to—random choices based on what was in at the library
Calum Reed
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
B+: I'm a bit tired of the depiction of disabled people in James' books, and her endings always feel quite forced, but I can't deny that she creates a wonderful setting and collection of characters for this puzzle. She has clearly modelled this on "The Nine Tailors" but has neither the level of prose or polish to achieve something quite matching her ambition. Still, utterly transporting, and the motive for the murder is always dangling there but not quite visible. Clever.
Kathleen Wells
Sep 25, 2016 rated it liked it
A good mystery. I had a little bit of trouble keeping all the characters straight.
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P. D. James, byname of Phyllis Dorothy James White, Baroness James of Holland Park, (born August 3, 1920, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England—died November 27, 2014, Oxford), British mystery novelist best known for her fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard.

The daughter of a middle-grade civil servant, James grew up in the university town of Cambridge. Her formal education, however, ended at

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)
“Before he turned again the to the car his eye was caught by a small clump of unknown flowers. The pale pinkish white heads rose from a mossy pad on top of the wall and trembled delicately in the light breeze. Dalgliesh walked over and stood stock still, regarding in silence their unpretentious beauty. He smelt for the first time the clean half-illusory salt tang of the sea. The air moved warm and gentle against his skin. He was suddenly suffused with happiness and, as always in these rare transitory moments, intrigued by the pure physical nature of his joy. It moved along his veins, a gentle effervescence. Even to analyse its nature was to lose hold of it. But he recognized it for what it was, the first clear intimation since his illness that life could be good.” 0 likes
“I mean, when a chap keeps on saying that life isn't worth living you take it that he's just stating the obvious. When he backs it up with action you begin to wonder if there wasn't more to him than you thought.” 0 likes
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