The Lighthouse by P. D. James

‘The Lighthouse’ is the 13th Dalgliesh mystery by P.D. James and the second last one that she wrote. Even P.D. James eventually ran out of locked-room ideas and different and inventive murder ideas.

Combe Island is a secluded island off the Cornish coast. Its visitors are wealthy people with high stress lives who need to get away for a while to unwind. The brilliant and famous author Nathan Oliver is a regular visitor to the island, but he is also one of the least popular visitors. Then he is found murdered and each of the two other visitors and 8 staff have a strong motive for killing him.

Due to the calibre of the island’s usual guests, Dalgliesh is called in to deal with the case quickly and sensitively. The case comes at a bad time for Dalgliesh as he is not sure exactly where things are going in his relationship with Emma Lavenham. Kate Miskin (with complications in her own personal life) and Francis Benton-smith make up the rest of the team.


The story examines each of the characters and their past interactions with Nathan Oliver – the reasons why any of them could be the perfect murderer.

Then another murder takes place and at the same time Dalgliesh is struck down by a serious illness.

With the island now quarantined, it is up to Kate to lead the investigation to its conclusion. But, it is Dalgliesh, lying in his sick bed with time to think, who eventually works out who the murderer is.


This has been one of my favourite Dalgliesh mysteries, the only real problem I had was the length of time (about a quarter of the book) used in setting the scene and introducing the characters before any real action took place. I do enjoy getting into the personal lives of the characters who I have got to know – such as Dalgliesh and Kate.

I can’t wait to read the next and final Dalgliesh mystery – ‘The Private Patient’ to get the next instalment on the lives of both Dalgliesh and Kate Miskin as well as getting another exciting mystery.


Book Published 2005


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

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