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Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered. Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves, Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems and the ambitious Anglo-Indian Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly have the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects that there is a second brutal killing and the whole investigation is jeopardised when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder.
This eagerly awaited successor to The Murder Room displays the qualities which aficionados have come to expect of P D James: sensitive characterisation, an exciting and superbly structured plot and vivid evocation of place. The Lighthouse is a subtle and powerful work of contemporary fiction.
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A secluded island off the Cornish coast, renowned for its history of bloody piracy, has become a retreat for under-pressure men and women in the upper echelons of society. But when one of their number is murdered in a grotesque fashion (his body found on the eponymous lighthouse), Adam Dalgliesh is requested to solve the case, but with maximum discretion. However, it is not a good time for Dalgliesh and his team: he himself is going through a fraught period with the woman in his life, Emma Lavenham, while DI Kate Miskin is struggling with similar upheavals in her life. And their Anglo-Indian associate, Francis Benton-Smith, has his own problems in regard to working with Kate. Nevertheless, the team make progress on the island, until a second savage murder threatens to bring chaos.
It's easy to underestimate James’ achievement with Dalgliesh and co. So often, long-time series characters betray signs of their authors’ growing disinterest, but James has always managed to find new nuances to ensure that we never tire of her cultivated copper. And there's pleasure here in seeing familiar themes orchestrated with such finesse: the difficult, combative figure who alienates a host of people (and thereby set themselves up as a candidate for murder) and, best of all, the cloistered setting -- often a cliché of the genre -- but here, treated with freshness and imagination. --Barry Forshaw
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