Original Sin by P.D. James

‘Original Sin’ is the 9th novel by P.D. James featuring detective Adam Dalgliesh and is set mostly within a London publishing company called Peverell Press.

With the death of the Managing Director, Henry Peverell, Gerard Etienne, the son of Peverell’s partner has now taken control of the company. He has plans for streamlining and growing the company, but very little tact in implementing his plans. The most contentious of these is selling Peverell House – a Venetian palace on the banks of the Thames. He has already dismissed or planned to dismiss several long term staff, one of whom has now committed suicide.

So, when Gerard Etienne is found dead from Carbon Monoxide poisoning, with a garish toy snake known as Hissing Sid wrapped around his neck with its head in his mouth, not everyone mourns his death.

Dalgliesh, along with DI Kate Miskin and DI Daniel Aaron investigate the death with a focus on the Peverell Press partners as suspects. The story gives an excellent character description of each of the partners as well as Etienne’s PA – Blackie, a temporary shorthand typist – Mandy, and the cleaning lady – Mrs Dempsey.

As they start to get closer to the truth, there are more murders – an author and another staff member of Peverell Press.


This was an excellent and quite intricately plotted story. The identity of the murderer and the ending of the book were not at all what I was expecting.

Dalgliesh takes on less of a role in this story with much of the policing falling to Kate and Daniel. Once again we are given more of the personal lives of the detectives (but not much for Dalgliesh himself).

There are a few incidents in the book which bring to light class differences, a common undertone in P.D. James’s books.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series – ‘A Certain Justice’.


Book Published 1994


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

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