The Private Patient, By PD James

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The Independent Culture

Never call her cosy. The ethics and economics of private practice for a busy NHS consultant; the conscience - and its limits - of a top-flight investigative reporter who fatally oversteps a line; the stable commitment of gay couples set against the psychic wreckage of trad marriages: all this, and a cracking mystery in a creepy Dorset mansion too. Murder aside, James does modern work so much better than her peers.

True, her Adam Dalgliesh almost takes a back seat here, in spite of happy outcomes in his own private life. But a firmly-etched cast of team-mates and suspects, and the eerie Wessex landscapes steeped in the terrors of ancient myth, make this a case to savour.

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