The Mistle­toe Mur­der and Other Sto­ries by PD James (Faber & Faber, £7.99)

Sunday Herald Life - - BOOKS REVIEW -

PD James was of­ten com­mis­sioned by news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines to write crime sto­ries for their Christ­mas edi­tions. This slim book presents four of the best. It comes with James’s handy in­tro­duc­tion on the ori­gins of the short story crime genre, and Val McDer­mid’s pal­try fore­word. Two sto­ries fea­ture James’s stal­wart de­tec­tive Adam Dal­gliesh. But it is the first two that offer the greater en­ter­tain­ment. A Very Com­mon­place Mur­der be­gins as a beautifully con­trolled story of a voyeur who watches two se­cret lovers from his of­fice spy­hole. When one of them is killed, the peep­ing Tom looks on as the wrong man is found guilty of mur­der. It is a shame about the twist, which in the ti­tle story does what twists should: give new life to old death.

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