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Death of an Expert Witness by P. D. James

Death of an Expert Witness (1977)

by P. D. James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Adam Dalgliesh (6)

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1,989355,259 (3.79)51
Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh is searching for a "back seat strangler" who has already murdered four people. When an unpopular forensic scientist is found dead in a British government laboratory, Dalgliesh discovers that almost everyone there could be a suspect. When another body is found nearby, the detective must race against time to find the killer.… (more)



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English (29)  Spanish (2)  Finnish (2)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (35)
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
Written in 1977, this book opens up with the murder of a young woman that the local coroner, Kerrison is sneaking out of his house to go to to pronounce that she is a murder victim. He doesn't want his teenage daughter or young son to hear him leave and worry. His daughter does anyway and gets up looks in on her brother something the live-in housekeeper Miss Willard never does. Dr. Kerrison is in a custody battle with his soon to be ex-wife who left him and his children for a colleague at his old job. Nell, the daughter expresses a hatred over a Dr. Lorrimer who heads up the biology department of the forensic science building named Hoggath after Dr. Hoggath who started it--the first one in all of England way out in the fens in East Anglia also known as the middle of nowhere.

Pretty soon, we meet Dr. Howath, the head of the lab who also hates Dr. Lorrimer for dating his half-sister, though she has since ended it. His feelings for his sister are complicated. They live together since the death of her husband in an auto accident. He wishes he were dead too. Oh, and Dr. Howarth got the job of head of the department over Dr. Lorrimer. Then there's Dr. Lormier's cousin Miss Angela Foley who works as Dr. Howarth's secretary who needs four thousand pounds to buy the house she's renting because the owner has decided to sell it and she and her girlfriend Sarah Mawson who is a novelist, but while a well-reviewed one, not a profitable one, don't want to move. When Lorrimer and Foley's grandmother died she refused to leave any of her 30,000 pounds to Foley because she was a girl. Lorrimer promised to leave the money to her in his will. But after his love affair with Domenica Schoefield, Dr. Howarth's sister he still believes that he can win her back and convince her to marry him so he changes his will to leave everything to set up a scholarship and 1,000 pounds to the young receptionist who works the desk, Barbara Pridmore whom he was encouraging to take her 'A' levels and pursue a career in science. Barbara was the only person who actually liked Dr. Lorrimier. No one knows that he's changed his will yet.

Then there was Dr. Middlemas, the documents expert who was asked by Clifford Bradley's wife to help out with Dr. Lorrimer who was putting down Bradley and giving him poor reviews. Dr. Lorrimer would make Dr. Bradley nervous and dejected by doing his results over constantly and being cold and hard to him. Dr. Lorrimer was harder on him because Bradley had just gotten promoted and Lorrimer believed he shouldn't be in the lab at all. Dr. Middlemas had a wife with a cousin who committed suicide over the working conditions Dr. Lorrimer put him under that caused him to lose his fiancee. Dr. Middlemas will be damned if he will let this happen again and the two get involved in fisticuffs resulting in Dr. Lorrimer having a busted nose and Dr. Middlemas having blood on his lab coat.

Of course, Dr. Lorrimer is found dead inside the lab with his head bashed in and Commander Dalgliesh is called in to investigate from London. He's working with Inspector Massingham again with this one. An interesting tidbit is that there is a gay couple as characters in a novel written by a prominent writer at this time period. Of course, no one in the book likes them and it's not necessarily because they're gay it's because of various other reasons. But when you're with them you can't help but like them and hope they get to keep the house. It hardly seems fair to pick on them for what seems to be their gayness. Dr. Lorrimer won't be the only murder in this book. Someone else will be murdered as well and this person won't be as well hated. This book just didn't grab me the way the others have and I really didn't like the way Foley and Mawson were treated. But it picked up toward the end and became a real page turner after the second body was found. I give it four out of five stars.


Look, mate, if you can’t make it in bed, if she isn’t finding you quite up to the mark, don’t take your frustration out on the rest of us. Remember Chesterfield’s advice. The expense is exorbitant, the position ridiculous, and the pleasure transitory.

-P.D. James (Death of an Expert Witness p 53)

Death obliterates family resemblance as it does personality; there is no affinity between the living and the dead.

-P.D. James (Death of an Expert Witness p 149)

Sex no longer had the power to shock him; love, he decided, obviously could.

-P.D. James (Death of an Expert Witness p 160)

“But he wasn’t asking for a commercial arrangement,” said Dalglisesh. “He was asking for love.” “That’s something I didn’t have to give, and he had no right to expect.” None of us, thought Dalgliesh, has a right to expect it. But we do.

-P.D. James (Death of an Expert Witness p 181)

The trouble with a religious education, if you’re a pagan like me, is that you’re left all your life feeling that you’ve lost something, not that it isn’t there.

-P.D. James (Death of an Expert Witness p 191)

They’ll tell you the most destructive force in the world is hate. Don’t you believe it, lad. It’s love.

-P.D. James (Death of an Expert Witness p 208) ( )
  nicolewbrown | Apr 22, 2019 |
In P.D. James’ "Death of an Expert Witness," Commander Dalgleish is brought in to investigate the murder of a forensic scientist, a biologist working on murder cases himself, in East Anglia. He soon discovers a number of suspects, and a vast web of inter-relationships amongst them that have been largely hidden; but murder has a way of uncovering such things…. I was surprised when my husband, who has recently started reading James’ Dalgleish series, told me that we were missing a volume, as I thought that I had them all; turns out that I hadn’t managed to find this book, which was published in 1977, while she was still establishing her well-deserved reputation. It was a delight for me to return to one of my favourite characters - after all, what reader couldn’t love a police commander/published poet? I may need to start re-reading the whole series again myself, if I can pry the books away from my husband! ( )
  thefirstalicat | Oct 9, 2018 |
For me, this was the last book in the Adam Dagliesh series, as I read them out of order. At 14 books and one short story, this is the longest series I’ve ever read as an adult. It’s a fantastic series that I would highly recommend to any mystery enthusiast. The stories are generally set within an hour of central London, all have an interesting plot twist (these eventually become predictable, though still interesting), and develop the character and relationships of detective Dalgliesh and his small team.

A few years ago, I read that someone wrote a dissertation entitled “Theology in suspense: how the detective fiction of P.D. James provokes theological thought.” The series certainly had this effect for me, so I may skim this dissertation if I can get a copy. Thanks to Lisa Penney for introducing me to the series! ( )
  LauraBee00 | Mar 7, 2018 |
PD James is a master! Engaging well developed characters, wonderful sense of place, great attention to detail with out bogging things down. Good, captivating mystery with a surprising, but inevitable ending. Penelope Dellaporta is a wonderful narrator. ( )
  njcur | Jan 25, 2017 |
During the investigation of a local murder, we are introduced to the people who work at Hoggart's Laboratory, a forensic laboratory written and set in the 1970s. Dr. Lorrimer, who will, of course, be murdered (it's in the book description) is not at all likable, and we have been introduced to a slew of people with possible motive, and not one of them particularly endearing. Adam Dalgleish enters the picture in the second part of the book; there is nothing endearing about him, either, although his associate, Massingham (with a name awfully close to one the Hoggart's employees) comes close to being endearing.

During the rest of the novel we continue to read the stories of the various suspects as well as the investigation. I really had high hopes that this would be a four star read, but it's difficult to do that when I am not actually rooting for any of the characters even though I did want the mystery to be solved. No doubt this is likely to be better in a film. ( )
  Karin7 | May 25, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 29 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
P. D. Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Manchess, GregoryCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mustieles Rebullida, Jorge LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mustieles, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mustieles, Jorge LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The call had come at 6.12 precisely.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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AR 7.3, 17 pts
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