‘Cover Her Face’ is the very first Adam Dalgliesh novel that P.D. James wrote, and I was a bit surprised at how little background information was given on Dalgliesh. Having read other books in the series, I know that we get to know Dalgliesh quite well but I suppose it must happen very gradually.
Sally Jupp is an unmarried mother (much more frowned upon in 1962 when this book was published than now) who has been given a position as a maid in a country manor. As soon as she enters the Maxie home, she starts to cause conflict. Sally is educated, sly and secretive. The housekeeper – Martha takes an instant dislike to her, as do most of the Maxie family and their friends. Stephen Maxie, however, is captivated by Sally.
Within a few months, Stephen proposes to the manipulative Sally and the situation in the Maxie house comes to a head. The next morning Sally is found strangled in her locked bedroom.
The rest of the story deals with Dalgliesh’s investigation of the suspects and gives background on each of the suspects and on Sally herself. Eventually Dalgliesh is able to work out the sequence of events that led to Sally’s death, but the end is a surprise even for him.
It is easy to see why P.D. James became so well known for her Dalgliesh series, this story is so excellently written.
I’m surprised at how much attitudes has changed since the 1960s, particularly attitudes towards women. I also didn’t realise how ‘post-war’ the world (particularly England) still was in the 1960s. So there are a lot of fairly old-fashioned concepts in this novel.
The style of writing was also quite different in the 1960s than it is today. Books seem to have been set at a slower pace. These days authors seem to need to capture their readers within the first few pages (sort of like the monopoly express phenomenon).
I totally love the writing of P.D. James and plan to continue with the next in the Dalgliesh series – ‘A Mind to Murder’.
Book Published 1962