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Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)

by P. D. James

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Adam Dalgliesh (4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,208447,360 (3.84)76
The young women of Nightingale House are there to learn to nurse and comfort the suffering. But when one of the students plays patient in a demonstration of nursing skills, she is horribly, brutally killed. Another student dies equally mysteriously, and it is up to Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard to unmask a killer who has decided to prescribe murder as the cure for all ills. "The New York Times" called "Shroud for a Nightingale" "mystery at its best."… (more)
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» See also 76 mentions

English (41)  Spanish (3)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Very good Adam Dalgliesh offering. Student nurses are dropping like flies and the inspector must determine who and why. He does so with his usual style. I really love that one of his techniques for getting information is to simply shut up and listen. That seems to be a lost art. ( )
  AliceAnna | May 9, 2024 |
At several points the main character is discussing the case with his assistant and, despite the fact they've already talked about the evidence and what they think and he's the current viewpoint character and we follow both of them through everything important they do, their important deductions are covered up with sudden reported speech, like "he said what had happened, his assistant said yes that's obvious". Like are you *kidding* me how lazy can you get

The book is OK enough but the denouement is pretty silly and is the sort of thing that makes 95% of the book feel like a total waste. There aren't enough clues for it to make sense and the ones given which do lead to the ending don't really feel consistent or reasonable. They try and link the ending to a character's personality and then right at the end do a "oh btw actually it's someone totally different" for who there are 0 clues given. Not horrible horrible but pretty typical mystery fare in that the ending may as well be detached from the rest of the book because the rest of the book isn't important.

EDIT: After thinking about it some more, decreased my rating to 1 star because of the above and
1) The ending is absolute nonsense. The motives given make no sense, the story of the identity of a character makes no sense and the entire book requires several characters to have acted with no intelligence or thought at all, even ignoring the typical mystery trope of "oh they avoided an easier way because of X unlikely idiosyncrasy"
2) The main character is dull as ditchwater. I remember hardly any of what he did. His assistant just had sex with a suspect (no lead up, no follow up) and made misogynistic abusive comments about a witness. I'm not saying all characters have to be cool and likeable but scenes which are 15 pages of abusive, cruel thoughts about an old woman from someone who's seriously abused his position is horrible.
3) I could predict an event that happened near the end because it happened at near the exact same time and in a similar way to the other one of her books I read and, like that one, puts the character in incredibly serious danger and then pulls it out by having the dangerous person be a complete idiot and events to play out perfectly. A strong person hits you hard in the head with a golf club and within a few hours you're pretty much fine? Ridiculous. Also pretty sure they could have struck twice.
4) Physical attractiveness is treated as the most important part of each character to a large extent. Not surprising, but really crap.

So yeah this book stinks. A lot. ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
Supt. Adam Dalgliesh investigates the deaths of nursing students at the Nightingale House. The first murder, left to the local constabulary, resulted in no real solution. Dalgliesh, of course, recognizes some irregularities and pieces together the evidence to reach a solution. It dragged a bit in the middle, but every little bit seemed important in the end. My early guess was incorrect although I did begin suspecting the person before we learned too much. It's an interesting mystery in an interesting setting. ( )
  thornton37814 | Sep 25, 2022 |
Nurses in the Night
Review of the Sphere Books paperback (1973/1986 reprint) of the Faber & Faber hardcover original (1971)

It seems contradictory, but this is still a 5 star book even if it has to come with an Unsatisfactory Ending Alert ™. P.D. James is definitely hitting her stride here with her trademark style of novels set in "an enclosed world, seething with malice, intrigue, hatred and murder.*"

Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh** is sent to uncover the circumstances behind a death by poisoning of a student nurse at the Nightingale (no relation to Florence) House student nursing facility. A previous poisoning death at the facility had been unsolved by local police. The second fatality brings in the forces of Scotland Yard CID. The suspects range from an egotistical operating surgeon, the nursing matron, the supervising Sister Nurses, several students and the maintenance staff. There are the fantastical possibilities of suicide which are discussed, but the evidence finally leads to a diagnosis of murder, but for what motives? Dalgliesh and his somewhat rebellious assistant Masterson have to cover a lot of ground before the diabolical reasons can be unearthed. Along the way there is yet another murder combined with a concealing fire and Dalgliesh himself becomes a potential victim.

Details about the unsatisfactory ending would be a spoiler, but let us say in general that it does not feel satisfactory when justice is not fully served directly, but must come by later indirect means. None of that can downgrade a high rating for the buildup atmosphere of paranoia, the persistence of the investigators, the detailed character building of a very large cast, and the final twist unveiling of the solution.

See photograph at https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BODc4YzQ0YzgtNTFhYy00OGVhLWI3OGYtYTZjYTJi...
Actor Bertie Carvel as Adam Dalgliesh in the Acorn TV series "Dalgliesh" (2021-). Image sourced from IMDb.

Trivia and Links
* A quoted excerpt from the Sphere Books back cover synopsis of The Black Tower (Adam Dalgliesh #5, 1975).

** In Book 1 Cover Her Face, Adam Dalgliesh was a Detective Chief Inspector. In Books 2 to 4 he is a Detective Superintendent and then in Books 5 to 14 he is a Detective Commander.

Shroud for a Nightingale was adapted for television in 1984 as part of the long running Dalgliesh TV-series for Anglia Television/ITV (1983-1998) starring actor Roy Marsden as Commander*** Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard. You can watch the 5 episodes of the 1984 adaptation starting with Episode 1 on YouTube here. The adaptation is reasonably faithful to the novel and includes the original "Unsatisfactory Ending".
*** Dalgliesh is a Superintendent in the novel, but in the TV adaptation he was already a Commander.

The new Acorn TV-series reboot Dalgliesh (2021-?) starring Bertie Carver as Adam Dalgliesh filmed an adaptation of Shroud for a Nightingale as Episodes 1 & 2 of Season 1. The adaptation is reasonably faithful to the novel, except that it "fixes" the ending. It has not yet been announced which books are being adapted for Season 2 (as of late July 2022). Season 1 adapted Books 4, 5 & 7. ( )
  alanteder | Jul 22, 2022 |
Audiobook performed by Penelope Dellaporta
3***

Book 4 in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series has the detective investigating two deaths at a school of nursing, Nightingale House.

I really like how Dalgliesh is so methodical and contemplative. He never rushes to a conclusion, and carefully constructs and explores the possibilities before proclaiming a case is solved. This one took several turns I didn’t expect. I was sure I had the right person, and then I knew I was wrong. Okay, so it must be THAT one. Wrong again. I never guessed the actual culprit.

Penelope Dellaporta does a fine job of narrating the audiobook. There are a lot of characters, most of them women, and she is up to the task of differentiating them so that the listener always knows who is speaking. ( )
  BookConcierge | Apr 27, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (24 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
P. D. Jamesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dellaporta, PenelopeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Müller, WolfdietrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Piccioni, GiovanniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For J. M. C.
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On the morning of the first murder Miss Muriel Beale, Inspector of Nurse Training Schools to the General Nursing Council, stirred into wakefulness soon after six o'clock and into a sluggish early morning awareness that it was Monday, 12th January, and the day of the John Carpendar Hospital inspection.
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Oorspronkelijke titel: Shroud for a nightingale.
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The young women of Nightingale House are there to learn to nurse and comfort the suffering. But when one of the students plays patient in a demonstration of nursing skills, she is horribly, brutally killed. Another student dies equally mysteriously, and it is up to Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard to unmask a killer who has decided to prescribe murder as the cure for all ills. "The New York Times" called "Shroud for a Nightingale" "mystery at its best."

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The young women of Nightingale House are there to learn to nurse and comfort the suffering. But when one of the students plays patient in a demonstration of nursing skills, she is horribly, brutally killed. Another student dies equally mysteriously, and it is up to Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard to unmask a killer who has decided to prescribe murder as the cure for all ills.
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