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A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh #2)
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PD James Challenge/Buddy Reads > February 2020: A Mind to Murder (1963) SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 10350 comments Mod
Our second Adam Dalgliesh challenge book is A Mind to Murder A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries Book 2) by P.D. James by P.D. James, first published in 1963.

When the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is found dead with a chisel in her heart, Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate. Dalgliesh must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts resulted in murder.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2146 comments I gave this a 4 star but said I thought it was possibly a 3.5, however the more I have thought about it, I found that I did like the fact that Dalgliesh actually admitted he was wrong. I suppose it sort of made him a bit more human. so the 4 stars do apply.
I hope this relationship with Deborah doesn't turn into a "will he, won't he" ongoing thing.

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
I think, if I recall rightly, it is mentioned in the next novel and then fizzles out. I might be wrong about that, but I can't remember her becoming a Harriet Vane figure, she is just peripheral in a couple of later books.

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2146 comments Thanks. That is reassuring.

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
I found the treatments offered at the clinic interesting. It was also fascinating to see, at the end, how the clinic was to be incorporated into a general hospital. P D James worked in hospital administration and her husband was in a psychiatric clinic when he returned from WWII. I would be interested to read her biography, but I know she was very involved with the NHS.

message 6: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2927 comments Mod
Very interesting that James had inside information about psychiatry and hospitals. I wonder if this will be her 'go to' setting, as the theatre was for Marsh.

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9287 comments Mod
I've finished this now - I quite enjoyed it but thought it wasn't as good as Cover Her Face. I didn't think the characters were as interesting and kept getting some of them mixed up.

At the ending, I don't really understand what Nagle's motive is for trying to kill Jenny. He has committed blackmail, and has also been an accessory after the fact, but I find it odd he would commit murder to cover up those lesser crimes - especially as it is so likely that he will be caught.

It was interesting to have the detective getting it wrong initially, though - not something that often happens!

message 8: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2927 comments Mod
Nagle seemed entirely consumed by the prize he won and studying on the continent. Any delay or crime would ruin his chance.

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
He was a bit of a bad lot, wasn't he? I like the fact that Tigger gave him away - I thought that was well done.

message 10: by Judy (last edited Feb 02, 2020 11:39AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9287 comments Mod
Just moving over this post by Lesley from the other thread, just to be on the safe side. Hope you don't mind, Lesley. I moved this over because of your mention of Dalgliesh "getting it wrong" - not a major spoiler but just in case.

Lesley wrote:

Overall I've like this book as much as the first, enjoying both settings equally. Maybe James used the GA country house setting to 'feel' her way into writing the mystery genre, and finding success, continued with a setting she was also familiar with in the modern day.

I enjoy the development of Dalgliesh's character. The background story having recently lost his wife and the relationship he had with her, along with his musings on pursuing a relationship with Deborah. That, with his admission he 'got it wrong', makes him very human. James draws the other characters in the story well too, even to showing another side to Enid Bollam who also liked flowers and children; and Nagel who was only working at the clinic for money, but was a very talented artist, whom she was able to make me feel he was decidedly creepy.

There were some pretty obvious clues given out early in the book when one character was telling another of an overheard conversation, so I was sure I had it right. I got thrown off though at then ending of the book and was confused until the epilogue rounded everything up months later.

message 11: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma I gave it 4 stars because It really grabbed my interest, largely because of the setting. I enjoyed learning more about Dalgleish and I don’t think I’ve ever read a murder mystery where the detective gets it wrong, but I think it’s a very realistic scenario.
I also agree that there really didn’t appear to be much motive for Nagle to try and murder Jenny.

message 12: by Judy (last edited Feb 04, 2020 11:35AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9287 comments Mod
Lesley, I agree it was good to see another side to the unpopular victim - the photos of her at her Guide camps showed that there was more to her life than her role at work.

message 13: by Trisha (last edited Feb 04, 2020 08:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trisha | 79 comments I enjoyed it & found the characters & setting much more interesting than the first book. I think I felt that the first one seemed like a poor imitation of an Agatha Christie story, but this one was a more individual style. Like Emma, I gave this 4 stars.
In the edition I read, after the end there was a brief summary that gave information about the author. In that, it said she had worked for the NHS for nearly 20 years. Sorry if everyone except me knew that already! But I thought it was relevant because of the discussions in the non-spoiler thread.

message 14: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9287 comments Mod
Trisha, I didn't know she worked for the NHS, so thanks for that. Very interesting - so she clearly knew what the staff interactions might be like within a clinic.

The first book probably reminded me more of Marsh or Sayers than Christie, but definitely had more of a GA feel, I agree.

Roman Clodia | 872 comments I liked the way James branched out from 'the big house' setting. While Christie and others have used doctors, dentists and clinics before, I liked the emphasis here on people really working in that environment. I didn't know James had worked in the NHS so thanks for that info.

I thought that Nagle and Priddy were in it together and that the clues were too clear... so enjoyed the sudden turn-around at the end!

I thought he tried to kill Priddy because he'd originally planned to marry her so that she can't be a witness to his crimes, but when he finds out she's already married, he has to get rid of her another way.

message 16: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2927 comments Mod
Re Nagle and Priddy. I agree he only tried to kill her when his original plan of marrying her was thwarted. And he only planned to marry her when she discovered his guilt, otherwise she would have been left behind. Not a nice man.

message 17: by Jackie (last edited Feb 06, 2020 05:18AM) (new) - added it

Jackie | 330 comments Susan wrote: "He was a bit of a bad lot, wasn't he? I like the fact that Tigger gave him away - I thought that was well done."

yes, I really liked that Tigger gave him away and saved her life.
I felt his motivation to murder was strong enough. As Sandy said, he was consumed with moving to Paris with the prize being an artist's dream come true. He could not allow anything to keep him from going. From watching his thoughts we could tell it was entirely in keeping with his personality.

It was unusual the The Detective got it wrong but entirely believable.
I liked the book and found it very well-written but still enjoyed the first one more because of the setting and the fact that it wasn't as modern. But the setting was nicely creepy: perfect for a murder!
I liked how we got to know a bit more about Dalgliesh and look forward to reading more in the series.

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
Yes, I am looking forward to the next too.

Carol Palmer | 56 comments I really enjoyed this book & gave it 5 stars. I loved that James gave us clues to the murderer near the very beginning, but was able to redirect us immediately into suspecting someone else! That was very cleverly done.
As far as Nagle was concerned, he was just a selfish egotist who tried to get rid of Priddy when she became too clingy. She just didn't fit into his future plans. Cold-hearted. And Priddy was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He hadn't planned to kill her. He planned to meet Nurse Bolam to collect his blackmail and Priddy just showed up, so he had to think fast and get rid of her. He seemed to be amused that he knew who the killer was the whole time and was able to use that knowledge for his own gain. It was his own little way of feeling superior to everyone else.

Roman Clodia | 872 comments I enjoyed being wrong-footed over Nagle: as others have said so well, his seems the cold-blooded 'mind to murder' of the title - and fun that Dalgleish thought so as well :)

message 21: by Pamela (last edited Feb 09, 2020 04:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pamela (bibliohound) | 384 comments I enjoyed this - the 1960s clinic setting, the office politics, Dalgleish getting it wrong (although he had the blackmail angle right, so he wasn't totally wrong). It was more interesting to me than the first one.

I'll add a spoiler for this observation about a link to the previous book in case anyone hasn't read it yet. (view spoiler)

Jessica | 368 comments I did like the clinic atmosphere and even the staff meeting where I saw many of the characters we also have at our department (I work in a hospital), but the detailed focus into their personalities didn't yield anything useful.

Jessica | 368 comments But overall I don't think I'm really in the Dalgliesh groove yet.

Jessica | 368 comments By the way, for those who also read Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie, were you also struck with the plot similarities? (Spoiler brackets for those who haven't and don't want to know) (view spoiler)

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
I am very impressed with this series so far. This novel, in particular, is very confident, considered it is just the second in the series. Looking forward to reading on.

Roman Clodia | 872 comments Jessica wrote: "By the way, for those who also read Five Little Pigs by Agatha Christie, were you also struck with the plot similarities?"

Ooh, nice spot, Jessica! I *hadn't* noticed this till you pointed it out.

Roman Clodia | 872 comments Susan wrote: "I am very impressed with this series so far. This novel, in particular, is very confident, considered it is just the second in the series. Looking forward to reading on."

Me, too. I'm surprised how much I've enjoyed these first two books after bailing on Cordelia Grey. And already we can see James starting to pull away from her GA roots, bringing the genre into line with a more modern world while still acknowledging its tropes and structure.

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
I agree that James was excellent at keeping many of the traditional elements of the GA mystery (closed circle of suspects, etc) while embracing the more modern elements of setting. I liked Cordelia, but I think these are much better.

Tracey | 254 comments Jessica wrote: "I did like the clinic atmosphere and even the staff meeting where I saw many of the characters we also have at our department (I work in a hospital), but the detailed focus into their personalities..."

Agreed. I work in a mental health hospital so found the book fascinating from a historical perspective. We certainly don't have any LSD or paraldehyde being used today!

There was good redirection, I was certain it was the cousin, but then the case against Nagle built up and I changed my mind.

Looking forward to reading more in this series.

Bruce I looked up the cast list for Mind to Murder, and Nagle is played by Jerome Flynn, who plays Bronn on Game of Thrones, and Dci Martin is played by Robert Pugh, who played the creepiest character on Game of Thrones, Craster.

Tracey | 254 comments That's interesting. I've not seen GoT (I know, I know...), my reference for Jerome Flynn is one half of the 90's pop duo, Robson & Jerome. That is not how I imagined Nagle to be!

Susan | 10350 comments Mod
I read the first Game of Thrones novel as a buddy read but couldn't get on with it, or the TV show - although, admittedly, I only got through about a quarter of the first episode!

Tara  | 827 comments I'm really trying to like James, but so far, I'm not in love with these books. I did enjoy this month's read more so than the first, but it only really redeemed itself for me towards the end. It dragged through most of the book, but I thought the section from Nagle's perspective when he was planning out the murder of Jenny was so suspenseful and well-written. I agree with others that it as interesting glimpse into a detective's thinking when his judgment is clouded by his preconceptions. This also adds to the suspense of Nagle's attempted murder, as the reader believes he is already a killer.

And Jessica--I totally missed that similarity, although now that you mentioned it, I don't see how I could have missed it!

message 34: by Ian (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ian | 8 comments I enjoyed the beginning and end but found my attention wandering in the middle. I felt some of the conversations were put in for padding. For me not as good with the characters as the first novel, the doctors seemed a bit similar.

message 35: by Nick (new) - added it

Nick | 110 comments Second time reading this .... and the second time I was fooled into believing it was Nagle wot done it. I enjoy these novels best when I’m fairly fooled!

message 36: by Jackie (new) - added it

Jackie | 330 comments when I get fooled more than once, I assume the writer is very talented. can't be that my memory is crap, not at all.

Elizabeth (Alaska) Jackie wrote: "when I get fooled more than once, I assume the writer is very talented. can't be that my memory is crap, not at all."


Julie  Durnell | 4 comments I enjoyed the first book more than this one, although the ending was great! I had Nagle pegged for the murder but really liked how that twisted around. Would like to know more of Dalgleish's personal side, hopefully he is fleshed out more in the rest of the series.

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