Home > Book, Book Review, Mystery, Reviews > Book Review – A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries, No. 2) by P. D. James

Book Review – A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries, No. 2) by P. D. James

Book Description:

A piercing scream, shattering the evening calm, brings Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh hurrying from his literary party to the nearby Steen Psychiatric Clinic, where he discovers the body of a woman sprawled on the basement floor, a chisel thrust through her heart. As Dalgliesh probes beneath the apparently unruffled calm of the clinic, he discovers that many an intrigue lies hidden behind the Georgian terrace’s unassuming façade.

Professionally, he has never known the taste of failure. Now, for the first time, he feels unsure of his own mastery as he battles to unmask a cool killer who is proving to be his intellectual equal, and who is poised to strike again.

With “discernment, depth, and craftsmanship,” wrote the Chicago Daily News, A Mind to Murder “is a superbly satisfying mystery.”


A Mind to Murder by P. D. James is the second book in her Adam Dalgliesh mysteries, initially published way back in 1963. I’m a huge fan of P. D. James’ mystery books, so I’ve been trying to read her older works (thanks to the library!). A Mind to Murder is nowhere as good as her later books though, so I really wouldn’t recommend it to introduce P.D. James to possible new fans. This book is best enjoyed by ardent fans who want to read everything P. D. James wrote (and know that she becomes a legendary crime writer in the future).

A Mind to Murder takes place three years after Cover Her Face (here’s my review of the first book), and Adam Dalgliesh (who has been promoted to Superintendent, while enjoying new success as a published poet) is called in to discreetly investigate the stabbing murder of the administrative head of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic. The victim (Miss Bolam) was not a particularly popular woman with the staff in the clinic – and suspects range from a bunch of doctors without alibis, to a cousin who stands to inherit Miss Bolam’s considerable fortune.

In this second book, P.D. James already has her trademark obsessive attention to detail down pat, and I liked that she had started to build the fascinatingly emo character of Dalgliesh. The plot is simpler than in the first book , but James peppers it with many red-herrings, such that I was really surprised by the identity of the killer in the end. However, I felt that the twist that revealed the murderer seemed really contrived (it really threw me and really came from nowhere), and I was also disappointed that the characters (or suspects) were mostly not as fleshed-out as I liked.

(I did find it really funny that LSD was being used as a helpful drug for loosening the ‘inhibitions’ of psychiatric patients in the Steen Clinic. Nice touch of history lesson for me!)

A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries, No. 2) by P. D. James is available on Amazon as a Paperback Edition and Audible Audio Edition. *The Kindle Edition is not available in the US

For a second opinion – here’s some reviews of A Mind to Murder by other bloggers:

  • Newton Reads – “* * * * Very, very good”
  • Mystery*File – “Authenticity is the strong point of this book, along with the writing,which is civilized and perceptive”
  • Dwell in Possibility – “Two thumbs up from me”

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