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Devices and Desires (Adam Dalgliesh #8)
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PD James Challenge/Buddy Reads > August 2020: Devices and Desires (1989) - SPOILER Thread

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Susan | 10107 comments Mod
Welcome to our August Challenge Read - the eighth in the Inspector Dalgliesh series, Devices And Desires Devices And Desires (Adam Dalgliesh, #8) by P.D. James

After a long gap between the sixth and seventh in the series (1977 and 1986 respectively) there is only three years between the previous, A Taste for Death and this title.

The now, Commander Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, is taking a brief respite from publicity (after publishing his second volume of poetry) on the Norfolk coast, in a converted windmill left him by his Aune Jane, who we met in a previous book. However, he cannot easily escape murder - a psychopathic strangler is at large in Norfolk.

This novel takes place on Larksoken, a fictional isolated headland in Norfolk. The title comes from the service of Morning Prayer in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer : "We have followed too much the devices, and desires of our own hearts".

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread. Thank you.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments I just finished this and have to say that after a strong start, it began to drag from about midway. I wish that not every character had to have a dramatic backstory! It would have been a stronger book if it had been 200 pages shorter and pacier.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I finished this today.I agree I felt it could be shorter. She seemed to throw everything she could in. Drunken father and his children, a tramp, homosexuals, lesbians, blackmail, romance, nuclear power protesters, and terrorists. I felt it all became a bit desperate and silly. A lot of these were simply superfluous to what had been a good mystery.


Elizabeth (Alaska) For me, this was pretty awful from where the pros and cons of nuclear power came into it. Had it not been for all of you, I would have dumped it and used my time for something more interesting (to me).


Roman Clodia | 826 comments That's funny, Elizabeth, as I expected more about nuclear power given that this was published just a few years after Chernobyl which gets mentioned a couple of times. Larksoken could pretty much have been any scientific establishment that attracts extremist activity.

Did anyone understand why Caroline Amphlett, Alex Mairs PA, was having that affair with the ineffectual Jonathan Reeves? At the end, she says she was just using him - but what for? She doesn't know from the start that she'll need an alibi, and given that he's just an engineer and she has access to the director's papers, it can't be for technical information.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I don't read mystery novels to be exposed to various extremes of political thought.

I didn't understand the need to have Caroline Amphlett present in the novel. She wasn't a red herring and the terrorist sub-plot was completely unnecessary filling.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Yes, that terrorist plot seemed ridiculous - I thought it was a bit silly when the anarchist group or whatever they were appeared in A Taste for Death (Berowne's daughter) and it felt like PDJ was re-using some of the same ideas here.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I don't read mystery novels to be exposed to various extremes of political thought.

I didn't understand the need to have Caroline Amphlett present in the novel. She wasn't a red herring and the te..."


That is exactly what I felt. It was as if James thought she had better make use of the power station.


Elizabeth (Alaska) The setting was entirely foreign to me. After I finished, I looked up "headland" to see what exactly it was. I thought I had a good picture of it and I did, basically. What I couldn't understand is why there was a gate. I also couldn't understand why you would drive on one without a road.


message 10: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I have no idea why the gate was there. Maybe just to deter people from driving there. But we do have a lot of headlands where there is just a track and no made road.


message 11: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 01, 2020 02:22PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) OK, terminology is different. I would call a track a road - a place usually used for travel. So maybe it did have a road, albeit a dirt road.

It hasn't been that long ago when the ends of the road in Ketchikan were paved. Not sure that explains well what I'm saying. The road was paved and then the road extended (on both ends) but was dirt.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I was disappointed there was nothing further of Jonah after he was taken away for questioning. It just seemed as if the brief questioning might have been included and a discussion of his evidence.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "The setting was entirely foreign to me. After I finished, I looked up "headland" to see what exactly it was."

Haha, as a confirmed city girl, the setting was alien to me, too! The English countryside might as well be another country ;)


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I was disappointed there was nothing further of Jonah after he was taken away for questioning. It just seemed as if the brief questioning might have been included and a discussion of his evidence."

Yes, good point. I also felt that some of the characters felt re-used: the brother and sister living together (as in Death of an Expert Witness), for example. And the ineffectual men in thrall to strong and uncaring women.

Did anyone spot/guess the killer?


Carolien (carolien_s) | 519 comments I finished it as well. This is one where I did manage to figure out the killer. I liked many of the characters better than in some of her previous books although there seemed to be too many and everybody had a complicated backstory. Agree that this could have been shorter and the terrorist plot cut. Then again this was written during the Cold War, so terrorist plots were kind of expected.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "Did anyone spot/guess the killer?"

For at least 200 pages I assumed it was Alex Mair. When he agreed to his Sunday tryst with Amy he already knew he had something else to do that afternoon. We never learn what that something was.


Elizabeth (Alaska) In the non-spoiler thread: Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "I very much like Dalgliesh's competence and that's what I want in a detective."

I thought I'd follow up my own comment over here. One of the things that is to this novel's detriment is that the detective in charge was incompetent. The crime was solved by one of the characters.

Further as to not liking this one (I gave it 2-stars), is that it is rather poorly written and the characterizations are flat. That the previous installments have been well-written with good characterizations is why I've kept reading. I can only hope this is a one-off and she's back to "normal" for the remaining books in the series.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "For at least 200 pages I assumed it was Alex Mair. When he agreed to his Sunday tryst with Amy he already knew he had something else to do that afternoon. We never learn what that something was."

I thought it was just that he always worked on Sunday afternoons, as he does on this day?

I thought he was too obvious as the perpetrator but did have my eye on him and Alice from quite early on given that they have form - ok, I know killing through omission isn't the same as physically strangling someone but Alice seemed to have the efficiency and intelligence as well as the... strength? will? (not sure what the right word is) to see the plan through.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "One of the things that is to this novel's detriment is that the detective in charge was incompetent. The crime was solved by one of the characters."

I thought the relationship between the detective (whose name I've already forgotten!) and Dalgleish was quite clunky. In a way, Dalgelish *had* to solve it.

I was irritated by Dalgleish's last minute rescue in the burning cottage - way too similar to Unnatural Causes with his last minute rescue from the flooded cottage.


message 20: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 03, 2020 08:16AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "I thought it was just that he always worked on Sunday afternoons, as he does on this day?"

But it was Sunday on the beach with Amy, not work. She then said "Next Sunday"? He agreed, but went away knowing he wouldn't make the appointment because he knew he had something else planned. And it was that next Sunday that Robarts was murdered. That's the sequence I remember.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "I thought the relationship between the detective (whose name I've already forgotten!) and Dalgleish was quite clunky. In a way, Dalgelish *had* to solve it."

Rickards. And Dalgliesh didn't solve it. Or I didn't see that he solved it.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "She then said "Next Sunday"? He agreed, but went away knowing he wouldn't make the appointment because he knew he had something else planned. And it was that next Sunday that Robarts was murdered. That's the sequence I remember."

Oh, I'm sure you're right. Didn't he go to London the weekend of the murder, come back to Norfolk on the Sunday and then go in to work?

I found that 'relationship' with Amy - I know we only get a glimpse - odd and unconvincing, not least that Alex Mair should be having assignations on the beach. It just felt out of character.


Elizabeth (Alaska) I'm not sure about the weekend of the murder, but as he went to London nearly every weekend, I've no doubt he did. But the scene where we know he goes in to work was the weekend after the murder.

Yes, the relationship with Amy and about as in the open as you can get, was strange to say the least.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Rickards. And Dalgliesh didn't solve it. Or I didn't see that he solved it."

Yes, Rickards, thanks. Dalgleish 'knows' it's Alice though he admits to Rickards and that he doesn't have any evidence and that it's just logical deduction. Then Meg's story gives him the motive and confirmation. But yes, in strict terms, he doesn't solve it officially - I think it's left as an unsolved case in the end, isn't it?


Elizabeth (Alaska) I missed that Dalgliesh knows it's Alice.

I also didn't like that he's just a bystander in this. Grumble grumble grumble. ;-)


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Haha, I didn't like this as much as some of the earlier ones either. You're right, he's not even an unofficial detective in this one (as he is in The Black Tower, for example) - having found the body, I almost wanted him to be arrested as a suspect! Just shows I wasn't really buying into this one ;)


message 27: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I thought bringing in the terrorists was bad enough, but then with the fire ,it all seemed rather silly.


message 28: by Judy (last edited Aug 04, 2020 11:44PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
I thought this was pretty dreadful overall to be honest - glad it's not just me. Must agree the terrorism plot was ridiculous, and I also felt there were too many complicated back stories and too much melodrama in one small area - at times it felt a bit like an episode of Midsomer Murders without the humour!

I found the book rambling, incoherent and often boring, and felt it could have done with a good editor to remove some of the needless padding.

I do think there were some brilliant bits of writing along the way, like the section where Jonathan set out to investigate Caroline, but it didn't really lead anywhere. I really hope the series improves again in the next book.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Did anyone spot/guess the killer?..."

I didn't, but I think I vaguely remembered from the TV series it was a woman. I thought/hoped it might be Meg, as I wondered if her air of saintliness was hiding something, but no!


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Judy wrote: "I thought/hoped it might be Meg, as I wondered if her air of saintliness was hiding something, but no!"

Haha, that would have cheered me up no end!


message 31: by Judy (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Judy wrote: "I thought/hoped it might be Meg, as I wondered if her air of saintliness was hiding something, but no!"

Haha, that would have cheered me up no end!"


Not just me then ;)


Sandy | 2834 comments Mod
I finished last night and agree with most of the comments. It was not a favorite.

Adding to the list of complaints, having the murderer explain her guilt to her friend for pages and pages is boring and unrealistic. I'm glad she decided to let Meg live.

A minor complaint: not only did I have trouble identifying some of the characters using their names, but when they were identified by the name of the cottage I was lost. I could have used a map with names listed in each location.


Susan | 10107 comments Mod
I am on chapter 44 of 54 in my Audible version. It is beginning to drag a little, so I get all your points. Still, I am determined to complete this, now I am so far in!


Lesley | 384 comments This is one book where the story is so much better told visually. I've just finished watching the TV programme episodes via YouTube and have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. Much better than the book because of not having the endless padding - reading thoughts of the minds, room descriptions etc. Also, the terrorism fit into the story better too.

The book is not one of my faves in this series, but the story turned out to be a good one.


Sandy | 2834 comments Mod
While Rickard definitely has faults in detecting, I warmed to him. His unhappiness with his wife being away and his unease in his home, culminating in wanting bookshelves in the living room, then how very happy he was when his wife escaped from her mother really brought him to life for me. I hope the disruption a child will bring to the home loosens her housekeeping style and they learn to communicate better.

Did we ever see the conflict between him and Dalgliesh from Dalgliesh's side? Dalgliesh seems to have frozen Rickard out after a single mistake and he may have a problem directing the people under him. I don't remember him successfully correcting his chauvinist second in command who is now in training for a promotion. Of course without Dalgiesh's view we don't know that it was only one problem with Rickard. Rickard certainly has a problem in directing Oliphant and is not sympathetic interviewing Meg.

Rickard is faulted for bowing to his bosses and blaming the murder on the two terrorists but Dalgliesh also bows to the powerful men who decide to hide the terrorist activity. It is hard to defy those above you and continue your job.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "Did we ever see the conflict between him and Dalgliesh from Dalgliesh's side? Dalgliesh seems to have frozen Rickard out after a single mistake and he may have a problem directing the people under him. ..."

I think we sort of glimpse it from his side near the end, in the fire, when Dalgliesh thinks of the dead body as a "thing"...

"His mind, disorientated, was in another place, another time. And suddenly, among the crowd of gaping spectators, the soldiers with their pikes guarding the scaffold, there was Rickards saying: "But she isn't a thing, Mr Dalgliesh. She's a woman."

It seems as if, by thinking of a body as a "thing" himself, he suddenly realises how he misjudged Rickards in that incident. I'm a bit confused as to why there are soldiers with pikes here though... as though he is visualising the same scene back in history.


Elizabeth (Alaska) What I have to say about Rickards is this: it's a good thing he doesn't have his own series. It wouldn't make it to print. I'm guessing he couldn't solve a suicide.


message 38: by Sandy (last edited Aug 07, 2020 07:37AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sandy | 2834 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Sandy wrote: "Did we ever see the conflict between him and Dalgliesh from Dalgliesh's side? Dalgliesh seems to have frozen Rickard out after a single mistake and he may have a problem directing the..."

Re the spikes and soldiers: I think that referred to the incident of the historic plaque on one of the cottages about (I think) the burning of a witch. Her name, Agnes, was brought up a couple of times and always confused me as I tried to remember which suspect she was.

I missed Dalgliesh's realization of his misjudgment. Perhaps he will be humanized, for me, eventually!


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Sandy wrote: "... about (I think) the burning of a witch"

Oh, good catch that Alice replays the fate of Agnes in Martyr's Cottage (even though she's clearly guilty and not a martyr). I noted the 'thing' comment but hadn't picked up on Alice/Agnes.


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Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I saw it the same as Sandy. The fire being on the same spot. Also him seeing how shabbily he had treated Rickards


message 41: by Judy (last edited Aug 07, 2020 08:32AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
Oh yes, of course, thank you Sandy, Jill and RC! It had slipped my mind about Martyr's Cottage being the scene of the witch being burnt.


message 42: by Lesley (last edited Aug 07, 2020 01:36PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lesley | 384 comments Judy wrote: "Sandy wrote: "Did we ever see the conflict between him and Dalgliesh from Dalgliesh's side? Dalgliesh seems to have frozen Rickard out after a single mistake and he may have a problem directing the..."

Interestingly in the TV series it is Dalgliesh who chastises Rickard for referring to the body as a thing.
Rickard is portrayed as looking to Dalgliesh as a sounding board. They seemed to have a more amicable relationship here than in the book.
Dalgliesh also shows some empathy toward Rickard's tension over the forthcoming birth of his child.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Lesley wrote: "Interestingly in the TV series it is Dalgliesh who chastises Rickard for referring to the body as a thing."

That's the way it is in the book, too.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
Lesley wrote: "Judy wrote: "Sandy wrote: "Did we ever see the conflict between him and Dalgliesh from Dalgliesh's side? Dalgliesh seems to have frozen Rickard out after a single mistake and he may have a problem ..."

It's also Dalgliesh who chastises Rickards in the book, but then at the end he imagines Rickards chastising him for the same thing.

Good to hear you enjoyed the TV series, Lesley - I might give it a try. I watched it at the time, as with most of them - I did try revisiting an adaptation of one of the earlier books but wasn't really enjoying it, but it sounds as if this one is better.


Susan | 10107 comments Mod
I can see how a TV episode might have tightened this book up. I am surprised that an editor did not suggest making the book a little shorter and more streamlined, to be honest.


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
I remember at one point characters spent around half a page discussing arrangements for police to have tea and biscuits in their temporary office and where to get the water from for the kettle - I thought that sort of conversation could easily have been cut!


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Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9054 comments Mod
Susan wrote: "I can see how a TV episode might have tightened this book up. I am surprised that an editor did not suggest making the book a little shorter and more streamlined, to be honest."

I suppose by this time she was possibly famous enough to ignore editors' suggestions, though!


message 48: by Sandy (last edited Aug 08, 2020 07:33AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Sandy | 2834 comments Mod
A bit like J K Rowling with Harry Potter and her Strike series. I like Strike but an rather dreading a 700 page mystery. (I should check that page count, it may have grown in my imagination.)

Update: 944 pages! What is she thinking.


message 49: by Jill (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I was thinking that she was so famous, they daren't criticize.


Susan | 10107 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "A bit like J K Rowling with Harry Potter and her Strike series. I like Strike but an rather dreading a 700 page mystery. (I should check that page count, it may have grown in my imagination.)

Upda..."


J K Rowling seems to have a tendency to make books longer and longer too, doesn't she? I liked the first Strike book (still have my review copy!) so probably should read the next.

I have now finished the P D James. Umm, bit meh, but I liked the ending and the glass of whisky.


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