A Taste For Death by P. D. James

‘A Taste for Death’ is the 7th Dalgliesh novel by P.D. James and apart from presenting an excellent murder mystery, it gives us a few more pieces of the mystery that is Commander Adam Dalgliesh.

The book starts with the deaths of Paul Berowne and Harry Mack who are discovered in the Little Vestry of St Matthews church by an elderly volunteer cleaner – Emily Wharton and a young boy who has become her companion – Darren Wilkes. Paul Berowne was a Minister of Parliament from a wealthy and well-connected family. Harry Mack was a drunken tramp.

The police have recently established a new squad to deal with crimes that require delicate handling. The squad is headed by Dalgliesh along with John Massingham and Kate Miskin. Massingham is from another well-connected family while Kate is from a working class background.

As the three of them go through the process of solving the crime – focusing very  much on Berowne’s death, of course, we get to find out so much more about the detectives and the other characters involved in the story.

Lady Ursula (Berowne’s mother) cannot accept that class rules are starting to change. Barbara Berowne (Paul’s wife) clawed her way into the family and has no intention of releasing her grip. Evelyn Matlock (the Berowne housekeeper and more…), known to the family as Mattie, acts grateful to the family but bitterness lurks beneath the surface.

Despite the differences in their upbringing, John Massingham and Kate Miskin have very similar family issues and very similar aspirations. Adam Dalgliesh – well, we’re still getting to know him, very slowly.


This was an excellent book (the best in the series so far), with a huge emphasis on class distinctions and the expectations that the different classes have and what they feel that life owes them. There were some brilliant characters – even Paul Berowne would have been good to have around for longer. But, my favourite character was Kate Miskin and I hope we get to see more of her in future Dalgliesh novels – as well as finding out more about Dalgliesh the man. I can’t wait to read the next instalment – ‘Devices and Desires’.


Book Published 1986


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

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