Reading the Detectives discussion

Original Sin (Adam Dalgliesh #9)
This topic is about Original Sin
36 views
PD James Challenge/Buddy Reads > September 2020 - Original Sin - SPOILER Thread

Comments Showing 1-50 of 70 (70 new)    post a comment »
« previous 1

Susan | 10108 comments Mod
Welcome to our September 2020 challenge read - Original Sin Original Sin by P.D. James by P.D. James and first published in 1994.

The ninth Inspector Adam Dalgliesh novel is set in a two hundred year old publishing firm, The Peverell Press, housed in a dramatic mock-Venetian palace on the Thames, is certainly ripe for change. But the proposals of its ruthlessly ambitious new managing director, Gerard Etienne, upset many and, ultimately, lead to murder.

Please feel free to post spoilers in this thread.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I have finished this and think it is better than the last couple we have had, although I still think it is over long.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments I was enjoying this... and then *that ending*! It was like the terrorist plot from Devices And Desires all over again.

For me, it ruined the whole book as about 90% of what we'd read was a red herring: Gerard Etienne's personality and all the shenanigans at the publishing house were utterly irrelevant to the killings.

And I found the 'Jewish conspiracy' theme where Daniel abandons the police and aligns himself with a multiple murderer because of their shared Jewish identity offensive and dangerous.

I'd been thinking 4 stars but it dropped to just 2 because of the ending.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments I felt the same about the ending, but up until then, I had been enjoying read more than the previous couple of books. I gave it 4 stars but really was a weak 4 due to the silly finish. It felt like she didn’t really have a plan, but had to finish somehow.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Interesting that you felt the ending was unplanned, Jill - I felt the opposite, that she'd introduced Daniel solely so that she could get to that ending.


Jill (dogbotsmum) | 2087 comments Yes, so much of the Jewishness was brought up throughout the book that it did seem likely it could be the root of the story, but the helicopter coming out of no where and the man being allowed to just walk away by Daniels didn’t ring true to me.


message 7: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Aug 30, 2020 07:44AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) I was simply outraged at the ending. That P.D. James would be so obviously antisimetic was more than a mere disappointment. I did not attribute that to the motives of Dauntsey - not that I agreed with them. It is that Daniel would turn his back on his chosen profession I thought was throwing oil on the fire. It was as if James was saying "see? Jews are all alike and can't be trusted". That is no more true than that whites are all alike and can always be trusted.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "It is that Daniel would turn his back on his chosen profession I thought was throwing oil on the fire. It was as if James was saying "see? Jews are all alike and can't be trusted". "

That's exactly what offended me too, Elizabeth. It supports all that anti-Semitic rhetoric that says that Jews will always be loyal to Jewishness first and can never be assimilated to other loyalties: in this case not just to the Met but also to ethical concepts of justice.

I was so angry that it cancelled out all my earlier enjoyment of the rest of the book. It's always been clear that I won't ever share PDJ's politics but this was way beyond party political differences.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Roman Clodia wrote: "I was so angry that it cancelled out all my earlier enjoyment of the rest of the book. "

I had a very hard time rating this. I left it as a weak 4-stars because I'd enjoyed so much of it, but I was tempted, like you, to lower it considerably.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Even if it weren't for the raging anti-Semitism, I'm never a fan of that delayed revenge trope - I know Gabriel is supposedly doing his research (not very well, as it turns out) but to wait 50 years before going on a murder spree is hard for me to swallow. Not to mention his frailty and the fact that he needs a walking stick... bah!


message 11: by Judy (last edited Aug 31, 2020 12:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "I was enjoying this... and then *that ending*! It was like the terrorist plot from Devices And Desires all over again.

For me, it ruined the whole book as about 90% of what we'd r..."


I agree - I still thought it was better than Devices and Desires overall, but agree with everyone's comments about the ending and the Jewish theme.

I don't think Daniel does side with Gabriel in the end, as allowing the culprit to kill himself rather than face legal justice is something that often happens in detective stories, usually in GA novels. But before that it is suggested he might even let him get away with it.

And I don't see why Gabriel would wait for decades and take revenge on the children rather than kill the person who was actually responsible for the deaths, Jean-Philippe.

It was also disappointing from the crime novel point of view that all the publishing house passions and rivalries, built up over hundreds of pages, turned out to have nothing to do with the murders.


message 12: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
More plot gripes - did I miss something, or do we never find out who was carrying out all the practical jokes at Peverell Press? Blackie only confesses to sending the fax, and it seems out of character for her to have done the others.

And it seemed a bit much to have Daniel discovering a confession to the 19th century murder in the archives just a few minutes before he discovers Dauntsey's motive.


message 13: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Not to mention his frailty and the fact that he needs a walking stick... bah!..."

Yes indeed - we were repeatedly told that the killer must be strong!


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

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
I've just found a couple of links to articles about Original Sin. The first is an enthusiastic review - the second is an interview with James where she interestingly does a description of herself as if she was a suspect at the start.

https://movies2.nytimes.com/books/97/...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archiv...


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Good point, Judy, about GA detectives allowing murderers to kill themselves - but I thought it was clear that Daniel was going to help Gabriel get away. Didn't he only kill himself when he realised that they weren't Jean-Philippe's children? My understanding was that he wanted J-P alive to experience the death of his family as Gabriel had.


message 16: by Roman Clodia (last edited Aug 31, 2020 12:38AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Roman Clodia | 826 comments I also thought it was a massive coincidence that the first woman killed herself in that little room at the start.

You're right, I don't know who the joker was.

The killer seemed most likely to be Gabriel as he worked in that room but I was thrown off by his frailty. Especially him running around up and down stairs with the bath running and just having been mugged!

Dalgleish isn't having much luck with his team, is he ;)


message 17: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
I wasn't too sure what Daniel was intending - we kept hearing mention of "warning" Gabriel but I don't know what he thought Gabriel would do.

I have the impression James wants readers to feel some sympathy for Daniel but it's impossible to do so since Gabriel has committed multiple murders of innocent people in pursuit of his "revenge"!

On a sidetrack, that area of north Essex is a very atmospheric place for the ending, with Gabriel going out to drown himself.


message 18: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Roman Clodia wrote: "Didn't he only kill himself when he realised that they weren't Jean-Philippe's children? ..."

I hadn't thought of that. But the whole revelation about the adopted children is quite disturbing and clunkily handled, as though it then seems their loss is somehow less devastating.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Clunky, indeed!

More positively, I liked the Dickensian touches: Our Mutual Friend for the Thames, Bleak House for the idea of the ghost of an unhappy woman haunting the bloody courtyard.

Esme Carling, the crazy old crime novelist, is a nice homage to a long line of female writers in detective fiction from Ariadne Oliver, the woman in Death on the Nile, and the one in the End of Chapter which we mentioned earlier.


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Yes, I thought Esme was great - from the interview with James in the second link I posted, looks as if she enjoyed the character, and said she would have had a great motive for murder when her publisher dropped her!


message 21: by Lesley (last edited Sep 01, 2020 04:05PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lesley | 384 comments Thanks for those two links, Judy. Enjoyed the interview with James. She sounds just how I'm coming to see her through her writing. I liked the little gem she threw in there regarding Cordelia Gray. :)

I like this book, even with the ending as it was. I think James tends to write more a novel of a degree of complexity around a cast of characters and their lives, that includes a crime of murder/s, and features Adam Dalgliesh. Rather than an action packed murder plot with characters in which a story is built.


message 22: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Glad you liked the interview, Lesley. I do wish she had written more Cordelia Gray books!

Yes, I think she is interested in all her characters and their back stories, even when they don't have much to do with the mystery element of the story.


Susan | 10108 comments Mod
I have finished this now - again, another long read for a crime novel. I enjoyed this more than the previous couple of books, so I think I was prepared to forgive the odd ending. I do agree that it was a very weak ending and one I found impossible to believe.

Although it was quite self-indulgent in the amount of detail, I did like the setting and thought there was a good range of motives.


Trisha | 79 comments My main feeling was relief that the book finally ended. It was much too long. Like others here, I thought the emphasis on the Jewish aspects was offensive. The ending seemed completely false, though I agree with Judy that it was set in a perfect choice of location.


Elizabeth (Alaska) A couple of thoughts 10 days after finishing this one...

Not much of Dalgliesh in this one, or is my memory faulty?

Why would Dauntsey keep his file and correspondence at the Peverell Press rather than at home?


Susan | 10108 comments Mod
I think Dauntsey lived there (next door?) I was unclear about the layout of the building and apartments. Possibly the line between home and work got blurred, or he kept everything relating to his book there and just assumed nobody would be interested enough to look at it?!

More to the point, why put a bed in one of the upstairs rooms and use it as a place to have an affair? Surely there were other options - a local hotel, for example? The press was a hotbed of gossip as it was; I couldn't believe that wouldn't be commented on.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments Oh yes, far too many activities seem to take place in that little room, and I couldn't believe for a second in the affair upstairs, and a single bed too.

I'd thought all along that the murderer had to be Gabriel because he worked there most often but discounted him because of his age, frailty and walking stick. The fact that he had no motive also made me suspicious ;)


Elizabeth (Alaska) Susan wrote: "or he kept everything relating to his book there "

I don't think there was ever to be a book. That was camouflage for his research, which is why it makes no sense to keep it in the archives.

There were two outbuildings/houses. One of the houses had been converted into two units. I suppose you could call those apartments, but I did not think of them as such.


Sandy | 2836 comments Mod
I enjoyed most of the book until the ending. I wasn't surprised that the war and French Resistance played a role as Gabriel's loss and J-P Etienne past seemed destined to be connected, but I was extremely disappointed in Daniel's actions as I was hoping for a member of Dalglish's team that I could root for.


Sandy | 2836 comments Mod
Judy wrote: "Roman Clodia wrote: "Didn't he only kill himself when he realised that they weren't Jean-Philippe's children? ..."

I hadn't thought of that. But the whole revelation about the adopted children is ..."


J-P had mentioned earlier that the children were only for his wife and he had no interest in them, so Gabriel's revenge was not very effective.


Sandy | 2836 comments Mod
And I think Gabriel mentioned playing the tricks to muddy the waters a bit.

Though, add to the list of unlikely occurrences, Blackie sent the fax cancelling the book signing. Did she give a reason why?

I wonder if the author's life would have been spared, as Kate's was, if Gabriel had killed Claudia first.


Susan | 10108 comments Mod
I do totally agree that the ending went awry at best. I did like the novel up to the end though. I liked both the publishing and the office setting. For me, Mandy was one of the best characters and gave P D James a good chance to discuss the plot, as she headed down to chat to the nosy tea lady!


message 33: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Sandy wrote: "And I think Gabriel mentioned playing the tricks to muddy the waters a bit.

Though, add to the list of unlikely occurrences, Blackie sent the fax cancelling the book signing. Did she give a reason why?"


I think she was upset by the way Esme spoke to her - but I am still not sure if she did the other practical jokes or if Gabriel did. Neither really seems likely to me.


Roman Clodia | 826 comments That reminds me, does anyone else get the feeling that all the books seem to be set in a kind of twilight 1970s world? The settings can have 'modern' elements and sometimes contemporary dates are mentioned, but there are so many throwbacks such as women (and they are women) using typewriters and word processors, no-one has a computer or mobile, not even the police, and some of the value systems seem even older. It was Susan's mention of the tea-lady which reminded me: did companies have tea-ladies in 1994?


message 35: by Judy (last edited Sep 08, 2020 11:36PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Interesting point, RC. This one was published in 1994 and probably written over the previous two or three years, and I think very few people had mobile phones by then - though, as you say, police may have been using them. Home computers were coming in but I think dedicated word processors were also still around - I'm sure typewriters were going out by then though!

I also agree it's not likely many companies would have been employing a tea lady by then.

I rather like the period flavour to PD James's books though and am not really worried by this, I'll admit.


Susan | 10108 comments Mod
Yes, she does have an earlier feel. It doesn't bother me either, but it definitely does not feel like 1994.

I've never had a tea lady anywhere I have worked - sadly. It sounds a great idea.

I remember reading Death in High Heels (scheduled as a future buddy read) and being surprised that a fairly small dress shop provided hot lunches for staff. It all sounds so civilised in the era of a cup of grabbed bites to eat.


Carol Palmer | 56 comments Well, I just finished this one. And, as usual, I had a very different reaction than most of the ones I've read here. I also gave it a weak 4 stars (really 3.5) but for a very different reason than most people stated.

I thought the plot was excellent and I really liked the ending. I didn't find it to be either pro- or anti- Semitic at all. I thought that letting Gabriel walk away (to his intended suicide) showed empathy on Daniel's part and Daniel's decision that the pain of the loss of his family (not his Jewishness) allowed some understanding of his motive. He had finished his self-appointed purpose in life and was allowed to choose the means of his own death.

I gave it 4 stars because its >500 page length seemed unnecessary and forced to me. In my review, I stated that it seems like the publishers said "send us a 500 pager" and James complied by padding her story with descriptions of every detail of every building, as well as descriptions of all the furniture!


Elizabeth (Alaska) You think it's OK that people who murder should be let off? That the police should just say, "oh, you're an old guy, your life has been filled with suffering and the lives of those you snuffed meant nothing anyway"?


message 39: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 9057 comments Mod
Carol wrote: "He had finished his self-appointed purpose in life and was allowed to choose the means of his own death. ..."

This was also what I though, that he does in a way still face justice, when Daniel allows him to die by his own hand, as detectives do in many earlier mysteries (usually in the era of hanging.)

However, there had been hints earlier that Daniel might let Gabriel escape. I was glad that didn't happen, but sad that he goes against all his training and professional ethics in this way, and also that it means we will now lose him as a detective in future books, since I thought his character and his interaction with Kate was interesting.

I gave it 4 stars because its >500 page length seemed unnecessary and forced to me. In my review, I stated that it seems like the publishers said "send us a 500 pager" and James complied by padding her story with descriptions of every detail of every building, as well as descriptions of all the furniture!

This is what I've felt with some of the earlier books - not so much with this one, since I enjoyed the descriptions of the Venetian palace, but I do agree there were still too many descriptions of other less interesting buildings and items of furniture!


message 40: by Carol (last edited Sep 10, 2020 07:43AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol Palmer | 56 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "You think it's OK that people who murder should be let off? That the police should just say, "oh, you're an old guy, your life has been filled with suffering and the lives of those you snuffed mean..."

Why do you think he was "letting him off"? He was not letting him off. He was letting him die.

And he also knew that there was no punishment on earth that could be worse than the guilt that Gabriel felt when he realized he had killed 3 innocent people, none of which carried the blood of the man he hated.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Carol wrote: "Why do you think he was "letting him off"? "

He didn't know Gabriel would commit suicide. He went to warn him. Did we think that was to let him die, or let him get away.

Does anything think Daniel still has a job?


message 42: by Elizabeth (Alaska) (last edited Sep 10, 2020 07:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elizabeth (Alaska) Carol wrote: "And he also knew that there was no punishment on earth that could be worse than the guilt that Gabriel felt when he realized he had killed 3 innocent people, none of which carried the blood of the man he hated.
."


Poppycock! All of those people were innocent whether they were blood relations or not.


Sandy | 2836 comments Mod
I'm in the camp that letting Gabriel commit suicide was not as bad (and accepted in GA fiction in the days of hanging) as first, the hint that he was going to warn him that he should flee and second, he is giving up his profession that he liked and was good at. I was looking forward to him as a team member. I still 'fear' a Dalglish and Kate pairing, and I don't particularly like either of them.

Carol, I agree nothing worse could happen to Gabriel.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Sandy wrote: "I agree nothing worse could happen to Gabriel."

And society? Do we not think as a society laws should be prosecuted and the guilty punished according to those laws?


Carol Palmer | 56 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Carol wrote: "And he also knew that there was no punishment on earth that could be worse than the guilt that Gabriel felt when he realized he had killed 3 innocent people, none of which carried the..."
Apparently, you are not understanding my points. I'm sorry that I am not able to express them better for you.

I don't mind anyone disagreeing with my opinions. You all have that right. But please do not call my opinions "poppycock". They are no more poppycock than yours.


Carol Palmer | 56 comments Sandy wrote: "I'm in the camp that letting Gabriel commit suicide was not as bad (and accepted in GA fiction in the days of hanging) as first, the hint that he was going to warn him that he should flee and secon..."

Yes, I agree that he was wrong in thinking he needed to warn Gabriel. And I also do not want to see Adam & Kate become an item. They are both "broken" people who are not very likable.


Sandy | 2836 comments Mod
I will be really surprised if Daniel returns to the force. First, he probably shouldn't if he has this tendency to decide the law by his own feelings. Second, Dalglish, as demonstrated by his relationship with his prior partner in the last book, is not understanding of others' failures. (Though he seems to have made an exception of Massingham who I found offensive and is now off studying for promotion. Is my dislike of Dalglish showing too much?)


Elizabeth (Alaska) I think Daniel should be fired. He had a murder suspect in custody and let him go. I cannot imagine a worse violation of the public trust.


Carol Palmer | 56 comments Elizabeth (Alaska) wrote: "Sandy wrote: "I agree nothing worse could happen to Gabriel."

And society? Do we not think as a society laws should be prosecuted and the guilty punished according to those laws?"


Ah! Society... This is a very interesting question that you raise. Every country/society/religion has its own laws and they vary widely between countries (and between states in the USA). So far, nobody has been able to find an answer to your question that would be acceptable to all of us. What is just to one society is not necessarily just to another. The best we can hope is that we all try our best to find true justice.

Personally, yes, I believe laws not only should, but MUST, be prosecuted and the legal punishments followed. Otherwise, there is unequal justice in our legal system.


Elizabeth (Alaska) Carol wrote: "Personally, yes, I believe laws not only should, but MUST, be prosecuted and the legal punishments followed. Otherwise, there is unequal justice in our legal system."

And yet you thought Daniel was right to let Gabriel go.

The issue is a conundrum. I have just completed a Donna Leon novel, The Temptation of Forgiveness. That title itself seems to apply here to the idea that Daniel should let Gabriel go. But should he have?


« previous 1
back to top