Unnatural Causes by P. D. James

‘Unnatural Causes’ is the third book in P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh series and in this book Superintendent Dalgliesh is taking a much needed break from work and time to decide whether to marry Deborah Risco or end the relationship. He is staying with his Aunt Jane at her cottage at Monksmere Head on the isolated and windswept Suffolk coast. The small community of Monksmere Head consists mainly of writers.

But the job has followed Dalgliesh. Maurice Seton, a mediocre crime writer, has been found dead – floating in a dinghy with his hands cut off. Just like the opening of the novel he was working on at the time.

Being on holiday, this is not Dalgliesh’s case. Scotland Yard has not been called in as Seton’s death appears to be natural (apart, of course, for the missing hands). Inspector Reckless and Dalgliesh don’t particularly like each other, so Dalgliesh ends up very much as an observer and possibly even a suspect.

Dalgliesh follows up on his own ideas and seems to be following one step behind Reckless, but eventually manages to see things from a different perspective. When Dalgliesh and his aunt stumble upon another body, he thinks that he knows exactly what happened!


While this story (written in 1967) still contains many old-fashioned ideas, it is much less antiquated than the two earlier novels (‘Cover Her Face’ and ‘A Mind To Murder’). We are now getting to know the character of Dalgliesh much better. The Adam Dalgliesh presented in this book is pretty close to the one that we see in the later novels.

This novel was incredibly well written. I was able to form a very clear picture of the characters and the location.

I’m looking forward to continuing the series with ‘Shroud For A Nightingale’.


Book Published 1967


See a full list of books by P.D. James

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