Reading the Detectives discussion

Death of an Expert Witness (Adam Dalgliesh #6)
This topic is about Death of an Expert Witness
28 views
PD James Challenge/Buddy Reads > June 2020: Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James (SPOILER Thread)

Comments Showing 1-50 of 55 (55 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Susan | 9647 comments Mod
Welcome to our June 2020 Challenge Read: Death of an Expert Witness Death of an Expert Witness (Adam Dalgliesh #6) by P.D. James by P.D. James. First published in 1977 this is the sixth book in the Inspector Adam Dalgliesh series.

When a brilliant forensic scientist is found murdered in his own laboratory, Scotland Yard is called to the scene. The victim, a well-respected, authoritative member of the scientific community, was unpleasant to and greatly disliked by those who worked closest to him, leaving detectives with a wealth of suspects and murderous motives. P.D. James’ beloved detective Adam Dalgliesh is the one man who can sort through the lies, chasing down the truth to the book’s powerful climax.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 1953 comments A good third of the book at the beginning introduces the characters, which I did feel was a bit overdone, but I suppose it does help identify them better as the story goes on. After the first murder Dalgliesh is called in to investigate, and so the overview of the book comes together. I did feel that some of the twists were brought in as after thoughts to thwart the reader, rather than adding to the story. However it did keep me guessing, but I did find the ending as something of an anticlimax.


Susan | 9647 comments Mod
I haven't finished yet, but this book does have mixed reviews. I am enjoying it so far, though, and quite like the initial part of the books, where characters are revealed. Knowing the characters in a little more depth does help you care more about what happens to them and James sets the scene really well, I think.


message 4: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited May 30, 2020 07:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) I liked this the best of the bunch. I have quibbles about how the alarm system was presented. I worked for an alarm company in the late 60s, so technology about the same. If it was an audible alarm, Dalgliesh would have been inquiring of people if they heard the alarm. So I'm assuming it was a silent alarm. But even so, there would be a record of the time it was set and when it was turned off, in other words, there would be a record of any time the circuit was broken.

That record would be somewhere off site - it may have been at the police station (which I think was likely) or, like where I worked, at the central station of the alarm company. The off site alert was the very purpose of having an alarm system.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments I may have this wrong but I thought Lorrimer didn't set the alarm while he was working in the lab, just locked the door with the key so he could let in visitors. Kerrison set the alarm when he left - didn't he?


Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "Kerrison set the alarm when he left - didn't he?"

I'm not positive, but that is likely correct. Stanley was able to flee via the front door and Lorrimer was already dead. Did Kerrison have keys? But Dalgliesh didn't seem to care or find out when the alarm was set. The time of the murder was critical, was it not?


Roman Clodia | 758 comments So... I guessed right but couldn't understand why. The giveaway for me was on p.3 when Kerrison thinks 'love... the sudden terrifying hope of it' and because it wasn't mentioned again, I guessed a secret affair. So I couldn't understand why he'd kill the previous lover.

I do think James is a bit of a misanthrope: the grotesque Miss Willard is almost Dickensian! Everyone seems so miserable and humourless in her world, hating either other people or themselves. I'm glad we're only doing one a month!


Elizabeth (Alaska) Kerrison was my first thought also. Before the reveal I think I suspected everyone.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Ha, that was the other clue: we were battered over the head with motives for everyone - Kerrison was one of the few that didn't have a motive so I thought it had to be him!


Roman Clodia | 758 comments ... and more sleazy little episodes in cars! Even if one of them was a lie.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Which one was the lie?


Roman Clodia | 758 comments When Domenica tells Dalgleish that she and Lorrimer had their assignations in a car, rather than in the chapel.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I thought she demurred to answer the question.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I thought she demurred to answer the question."

"Seducing one of my brother's staff here in his own house? [...] We both have cars and his is particularly roomy."


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Talking of cars, I thought James was surprisingly empathetic towards Mrs Meakins, the woman that Inspector Doyle picks up. It was an odd episode, no?


message 16: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 01, 2020 03:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I thought she demurred to answer the question."

"Seducing one of my brother's staff here in his own house? [...] We both have cars and his is particularly roomy.""


That's what I meant. She didn't say that's where they made love, did she? She let him draw his own conclusions.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "Talking of cars, I thought James was surprisingly empathetic towards Mrs Meakins, the woman that Inspector Doyle picks up. It was an odd episode, no?"

As far as I could tell, it served no purpose other than to show what a slimy guy Doyle was.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "She didn't say that's where they made love, did she? She let him draw his own conclusions."

Ye-es, though there's no ambiguity about her intended meaning. It leads to one of the few exchanges between Dalgleish and Massingham, though, as they discuss why they don't believe her. It's odd that they seem to speak so little to each other while working so closely. I mean, we know they don't like each other but even so.


message 19: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 01, 2020 05:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "Ye-es, though there's no ambiguity about her intended meaning. "

I thought this was a classic case of not answering a question. Did you believe these two highly educated and relatively wealthy people actually made love in the car on a regular basis?


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Of course not - that's why I said above it was a lie. I think we're saying the same thing in different ways :)


Elizabeth (Alaska) Well, maybe. As I understand it, you think Domenica told Dalgliesh they made love in the car but I think she did not tell him that. In either case, they made love at the chapel. I did not know where they met. The existence of the chapel was sort of an off hand thing, of no consequence to people. Perhaps I should have been more suspicious.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Does anyone else think that James seems overly misanthropic?

Some of her portraits of people are very cruel, I find (Miss Willard, Lorrimer's father, Domenica Schofield, Clifford Bradley in this book, almost all the patients in our previous read). I don't mind bleak but she doesn't seem to like people very much. Even the motive for the first killing is Lorrimer's outpouring of venom and spite.

That said, it was nice to see Dalgleish being kind on occasion, notably to Nell and Brenda.


Lesley | 384 comments That’s something that has struck me particularly in this book. Her descriptions of spinsters seem particularly cruel.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I did not know where they met."

Brenda tells Dalgleish that Domenica and Kerrison were sitting next to each other at the concert that Howarth organised in the chapel and Dalgleish later notes that it was a little while after that that Domenica broke up with Lorrimer. But yes, we're not told any more than that.


message 25: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Jun 02, 2020 07:14AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I did not know where they met."

Brenda tells Dalgleish that Domenica and Kerrison were sitting next to each other at the concert that Howarth organised in the chapel and..."


Well, of course by the end I knew where they met. The hairs and testing them was enough to tell us that. But we were talking about where she and Lorrimer made love, not Kerrison.

Domenica was a piece of work.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Ah sorry, I misunderstood and thought you were unsure how Domenica and Kerrison had got to know each other.

She and Lorrimer met in the chapel too, I thought that was why the hairs were different. Also the fact she kept the same trysting place and the same code on the hymn board was one of the things that enraged Lorrimer at that final meeting with Kerrison.

She was! And that odd little moment where Dalgleish thinks to himself that he'd have run after her too.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Ha - and the 1840 wild goose chase! I think that is the sort of thing that happens in real investigations.


Susan | 9647 comments Mod
I know that Dalgliesh is quite difficult to know, but it is interesting that he takes time to reassure Brenda Pridmore and that Massingham mentions that he is good with the bereaved. I do feel that he is undemonstrative, but I am warming to him.


Susan | 9647 comments Mod
I have finished this now and enjoyed it a lot. I struggled a bit with Unnatural Causes and The Black Tower, but I have really liked the other books we've read so far.


Carolien (carolien_s) | 471 comments I enjoyed this one, but I agree that most of the characters are quite sad or bitter. Brenda and her family seem to be the exception. Dagliesh is growing on me and I like him more in each book, although he is difficult to know.

Domenica is quite heartless, but very intelligent.


message 31: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2637 comments Mod
I liked Dalgleish best for his treatment of the prostitute and his defense of her to his partner.


message 32: by Sandy (new)

Sandy | 2637 comments Mod
And may like him least for considering knowing Domenica better for even a fleeting moment.


Roman Clodia | 758 comments Although I enjoyed this one, I think I preferred The Black Tower as it was structured in a more interesting way: with this one, I flagged a bit at that point where Dalgleish did that series of interviews following the first murder, then it picked up again.

I also struggled with Unnatural Causes (as well as the Cordelia Gray books, couldn't even finish the second one). A friend mentioned that the next one, written in the 1980s is a step-change for James. Looking forward to it.


Trisha | 76 comments I notice that some enjoyed this book more than the earlier ones. Personally I was disappointed with it. I found the very long introduction to so many characters ruined the book for me - by the time anything actually happened I had lost interest & was close to abandoning the book. Dalgliesh was shown to be more sympathetic this time, but I was unimpressed by the other characters. With each book we read I’m still looking for whatever made us enjoy them so much when first published - after 6 books, I wonder whether tastes change or whether this series was just better than the other new books published around the same time.


message 35: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Although I enjoyed this one, I think I preferred The Black Tower as it was structured in a more interesting way..."

That's interesting, RC - I enjoyed this one more, as I thought the characters were more interesting, but agree that The Black Tower was better structured and I suspect I will remember it better.


message 36: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "I do think James is a bit of a misanthrope: the grotesque Miss Willard is almost Dickensian! Everyone seems so miserable and humourless in her world, hating either other people or themselves. I'm glad we're only doing one a month! ..."

I actually thought there were fewer really unsympathetic characters in this one than in some of her others, and less dwelling on people being physically repulsive (except, as you point out, with Miss Willard!)

I failed to guess the killer - my hunch was that it would turn out to be Inspector Blakelock and that the hit-and-run crash would be the motive, but no.


Elizabeth (Alaska) We all have different likes/dislikes. The Black Tower was my least favorite so far. It seemed in that one there was an attempt at gothic, a genre I try to avoid.


Susan | 9647 comments Mod
I would agree that I enjoyed this more than The Black Tower, but, as Elizabeth says, it would be boring if we all had the same tastes :)


Lesley | 384 comments Judy wrote: "Roman Clodia wrote: "I do think James is a bit of a misanthrope: the grotesque Miss Willard is almost Dickensian! Everyone seems so miserable and humourless in her world, hating either other people..."

I also thought it would turn out to be Blakelock, but ...


Lesley | 384 comments I don't have any TV for the next week or so, so decided to watch Death of an Expert on YouTube. Well, did I get a surprise!! I met Mrs Dalgliesh, Jean, who died in childbirth. The baby died too.

I thought his wife had died some time before the series, and was just a vague reference in his past.


message 41: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
Lesley wrote: "I thought his wife had died some time before the series, and was just a vague reference in his past...."

That would be a surprise! You are right in terms of the books, Lesley - they must have decided to bring it into the present day for the TV series. Did you like the adaptation? I tried to watch one of the others via streaming but didn't get into it, although I loved them at the time.


message 42: by Lesley (last edited Jun 06, 2020 01:55PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesley | 384 comments Judy wrote: "Lesley wrote: "I thought his wife had died some time before the series, and was just a vague reference in his past...."

That would be a surprise! You are right in terms of the books, Lesley - they..."


I've not watched all six of the books we've read so far, but of Unnatural Causes, The Black Tower and Death of an Expert Witness, this latest is by far the best in my opinion. But then I think I like the book the best too. I thought in Death of an Expert they got the casting pretty well right for the characters as they were described in the book.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Lesley wrote: "I've not watched all six of the books we've read so far, but of Unnatural Causes, The Black Tower and Death of an Expert, this latest is by far the best in my opinion. "

How good can it be when he has a wife who died before the first novel was published?


Lesley | 384 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Lesley wrote: "I've not watched all six of the books we've read so far, but of Unnatural Causes, The Black Tower and Death of an Expert, this latest is by far the best in my opinion. "

How good ca..."


Generally speaking, and taking their decision to show he had a wife out of the equation, this episode still appealed more than the other two I've watched. I'm not judging it for accuracy so much as how the story was portrayed and my enjoyment of it.


message 45: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
The one I watched part of was Shroud for a Nightingale - I felt it seemed very slow, but maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it. I might try one of the others though, as I do remember enjoying them when they were originally shown.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Judy wrote: "I felt it seemed very slow, but maybe I wasn't in the right mood for it. "

I think the novels in general are not fast-paced. Those who only like a fast-paced mystery would do well to read something else I think.


Tracey | 246 comments I enjoyed this more than the previous couple. It might be because I had a big interest in forensic science as a teen.

I thought the passage of Brenda finding the first body was very emotive, I had goosebumps reading it!

My money was also on Blakelock.


Tara  | 772 comments Roman Clodia wrote: "So... I guessed right but couldn't understand why. The giveaway for me was on p.3 when Kerrison thinks 'love... the sudden terrifying hope of it' and because it wasn't mentioned again, I guessed a ..."

I think you hit the nail on the head RC, and I also think that's why I am liking her writing less and less as we go. Everything seems to plod along in a nihilistic fashion.

I was also confused by Stella (Star)'s relationship with Lorrimer. I had assumed that she was in a lesbian relationship with Angela, but was I reading too much into that? It seemed an odd twist that was not fully developed, but was thrown into the end to justify motives?


Pamela (bibliohound) | 334 comments Finally finished this and have now caught up with all your comments. I liked this a lot, probably my favourite so far. I enjoyed the early character development, although I agree that James seems to have a pretty unkind view of people (I liked the chap who punched Lorrimer best).

Dalgleish is just odd, I kind of felt for him a bit when he saw William and was thinking how closing himself off from relationships meant he had missed out, but later on his reactions to both Massingham and Domenica were really weird.

I missed just about every twist (especially the Stella part) and didn't guess the killer till near the end, so that's probably why I enjoyed it :)


message 50: by Judy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 8611 comments Mod
Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Pamela.

I think Dalgliesh becomes a bit less odd in the next book.


« previous 1
back to top