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The Black Tower

(Adam Dalgliesh #5)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  15,318 ratings  ·  453 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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Average rating 3.99  · 
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 ·  15,318 ratings  ·  453 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 writ
This is the longest winding murder-mystery I've ever read. The story is based on a good plot, no doubt; but for the readers to comprehend this, they have to wait till the very end. The problem with this particular installment, I believe lies in the execution of the plot. The too detailed descriptive trend that the author uses on scenes, the thoughts and actions of suspects, and even of Dalgliesh makes the main murder-mystery stray from its course. In this particular installment, two men includin ...more
Sep 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I had an extremely hard time falling into this work, and I struggled initially to continue reading it.

The story eventually lured me in at the halfway point and made sticking with it worthwhile.

I’m on to the next in this series and I am hopeful that it will be more to my liking.
This is the fifth in the Adam Dalgliesh series and sees him needing to recuperate, after a stay in hospital, which has led him to question his career in the police. Having received a message from the old curate, of his father’s, asking him to visit, he decides to take him up on his offer and heads off to Toyton Grange, a home for the disabled. He is not sure why Father Baddeley wanted to see him, but, by the time he arrives, the old family friend is already dead.

Before long, and despite his att
Jul 14, 2008 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
Roman Clodia
May 03, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Counterintuitively, I enjoyed this more as a novel than as 'crime fiction'. In terms of the latter, it's another story, like Unnatural Causes, where Dalgleish is off-duty. It's not even clear what needs investigating till way past the halfway mark. James suddenly seems to wake up and crams a whole lot of crime-y stuff into the final chapter including the Detective's Burst of Intuition, the Cornered Killer Climax, the Jeopardy on a Clifftop, and the Last Minute Rescue!

But before we're recalled to
Sep 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: p-d-james
I enjoyed this outing with Commander Dalgliesh. Recovering from an illness he goes to visit an elderly friend in Dorset at Toynton Grange a private institution that looks after disabled people. On arrival he finds his friend Father Baddeley has died. The Commander stays on in his cottage to sort out some books that were left to him in the will.

Mysterious deaths occur and Wilfred the owner and manager is reluctant to involve the police. Julius an owner of a cottage on the grounds keeps popping u
Julie  Durnell
3.5 stars for the wonderful writing and intricate plotting, but oh my there are so many characters!
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
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
Elizabeth (Alaska)
The book opens with Dalgliesh in the hospital, learning that he isn't going to die. But he has had mononucleosis and needs to convalesce. From the beginning, and throughout the novel, Dalgliesh wonders whether he really wants to continue as a policeman. Since there are 9 more installments in the series, it's not a mental leap to know his decision. But while in the hospital he had a letter from his father's curate of 30 years ago asking to see him, professionally, and so Dalgliesh takes himself t ...more
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
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
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
Jan 28, 2020 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No one in the entire universe.
Recommended to Greg by: No one, but if they had, I'd forego every reccomendation forever.
BOOK 63 - 1975
Please, is this to be the P.D.James book that explains her popularity to me?
CAST - 2 stars: Big problem here. The voice of the author is right up front, on the first page. She hasn't introduced a character yet, but writes about medical students: "... with their long hair and short white coats, they looked like a gaggle of slightly disreputable bridesmaids..." Darn those Beatle- inspired haircuts from 1965 infecting a 1975 crop of doctors! Then the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Shabbeer Hassan
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brit-lit, 2019, whodunit
As the year comes to an end, I returned to one of my favourite gentleman detectives, Adam Dalgliesh. PD James paints a vivid picture of a remote coastal town where Adam finds himself one foggy morning in search of meeting an old friend, who he finds to be dead. What follows then is a cat and mouse game between Adam the sleuth, his convalescing self hell-bent on leaving the Yard and the crafty villain who preys more on people's psyche than their wallets.

The plot is made more memorable by James'
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
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
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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)

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“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
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