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A Mind to Murder
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A Mind to Murder [Format Kindle]

P.D. James

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Author’s Note
There is only a small number of autonomous psychiatric out-patient clinics in London and it is obvious that these units, dealing as they do with the same medical specialty and organized within a unified National Health Service, must inevitably have some methods of treatment and administrative proceedures in common. A number of these they share with the Steen Clinic. It is the more important to state clearly that the Steen is an imaginary clinic situated in an imaginary London square, that none of its patients or staff, medical or lay, represent living people, and that the deplorable events which took place in its basement have their origin only in that curious psychological phenomenon–the imagination of the crime novelist. -- P. D. James

Dr Paul Steiner, consultant psychiatrist at the Steen Clinic, sat in the front ground-floor consulting-room and listened to his patient’s highly rationalized explanation of the failure of his third marriage. Mr Burge lay in comfort on a couch the better to expound the complications of his psyche. Dr Steiner sat at his head in a chair of the carefully documented type which the Hospital Management Committee had decreed for the use of consultants. It was functional and not unattractive but it gave no support to the back of the head. From time to time a sharp jerk of his neck muscles recalled Dr Steiner from momentary oblivion to the realities of his Friday evening psychotherapy clinic. The October day had been very warm. After a fortnight of sharp frosts during which the staff of the clinic had shivered and pleaded, the official date for starting the central heating had coincided with one of those perfect autumn days when the city square outside had brimmed with yellow light and the late dahlias in the railed garden, bright as a paintbox, had shone like the gauds of high summer. It was now nearly seven o’clock. Outside, the warmth of the day had long given way, first to mist and then to chilly darkness. But here, inside the clinic, the heat of noon was trapped, the air, heavy and still, seemed spent with the breath of too much talking.

Mr Burge enlarged on the immaturity, coldness and insensitivity of his wives in a querulous falsetto. Dr Steiner’s clinical judgement, not uninfluenced by the late effects of a large lunch and the unwise choice of a cream doughnut with his afternoon tea, told him that the time was not yet ripe to point out that the one defect shared by the three mesdames Burge had been a singular lack of judgement in their choice of husband. Mr Burge was not yet ready to face the truth of his own inadequacy.

Dr Steiner felt no moral indignation about his patient’s behaviour. It would indeed have been most unethical had any such improper emotion clouded his judgement. There were few things in life which aroused Dr Steiner’s moral indignation and most of them affected his own comfort. Many of them were, indeed, concerned with the Steen Clinic and its administration. He disapproved strongly of the administrative officer, Miss Bolam, whose preoccupation with the number of patients he saw in a session and the accuracy of his travelling expense form he saw as part of a systematic policy of persecution. He resented the fact that his Friday evening clinic coincided with Dr James Baguley’s electro-convulsive therapy session so that his psychotherapy patients, all of them of high intelligence and sensible of the privilege of being treated by him, had to sit in the waiting-room with the motley crowd of depressed suburban housewives and ill-educated psychotics that Baguley seemed to delight in collecting. Dr Steiner had refused the use of one of the third-floor consulting-rooms. These had been formed by partitioning the large and elegant Georgian rooms and he despised them as badly proportioned and unpleasing cells, ill-suited either to his grade or to the importance of his work. Nor had he found it convenient to change the time of his session. Baguley, therefore, should change his. But Dr Baguley had stood firm and in this, too, Dr Steiner had seen the influence of Miss Bolam. His plea that the ground-floor consulting-rooms should be soundproofed had been turned down by the Hospital Management Committee on the grounds of expense. There had, however, been no demur over providing Baguley with a new and highly expensive contraption for shocking his patients out of the few wits they still possessed. The matter had, of course, been considered by the Clinic Medical Committee, but Miss Bolam had made no secret of where her sympathies lay. In his diatribes against the administrative officer, Dr Steiner found it convenient to forget that her influence over the Medical Committee was non-existent.

It was difficult to forget the irritations of the ECT session. The clinic building had been put up when men built to last, but even the sturdy oak door of the consulting room could not muffle the comings and goings of a Friday night. The front door was closed at 6 p.m. and patients at the evening clinics were booked in and out since the time, over five years ago, when a patient had entered unobserved, secreted herself in the basement lavatory and chosen that insalubrious place in which to kill herself. Dr Steiner’s psychotherapy sessions were punctuated by the ringing of the front-door bell, the passing of feet as patients came and went, the hearty voices of relatives and escorts exhorting the patient or calling goodbyes to Sister Ambrose. Dr Steiner wondered why relatives found it necessary to shout at the patients as if they were deaf as well as psychotic. But possibly after a session with Baguley and his diabolic machine they were. Worst of all was the clinic domestic assistant, Mrs Shorthouse. One might imagine that Amy Shorthouse could do the cleaning early in the mornings as was surely the normal arrangement. That way there would be the minimum of disturbance to the clinic staff. But Mrs Shorthouse maintained that she couldn’t get through the work without an extra two hours in the evenings and Miss Bolam had agreed. Naturally, she would. It appeared to Dr Steiner that very little domestic work was done on Friday evenings. Mrs Shorthouse had a predilection for the ECT patients–indeed, her own husband had once been treated by Dr Baguley–and she was usually to be seen hanging around the hall and the ground-floor general office while the session was being held. Dr Steiner had mentioned it at the Medical Committee more than once and had been irritated by his colleagues’ general uninterest in the problem. Mrs Shorthouse should be kept out of sight and encouraged to get on with her work, not permitted to stand around gossiping with the patients. Miss Bolam, so unnecessarily strict with other members of the staff, showed no inclination to discipline Mrs Shorthouse. Everyone knew that good domestic workers were hard to get but an administrative officer who knew her job would recruit them somehow. Weakness solved nothing. But Baguley could not be persuaded to complain about Mrs Shorthouse and Bolam would never criticize Baguley. The poor woman was probably in love with him. It was up to Baguley to take a firm line instead of sloping around the clinic in that ridiculously long white coat which made him look like a second-rate dentist. Really, the man had no idea of the dignity with which a consultant clinic should be conducted.

From the Paperback edition.

Revue de presse

“She is an addictive writer. P.D. James takes her place in the long line of those moralists who tell a story as satisfying as it is complete.” -- Anita Brookner

“P.D. James is one of the national treasures of British fiction. As James takes us from one life to another, her near-Dickensian scale becomes apparent.” -- Malcolm Bradbury, Mail on Sunday

“Great and powerful writing.” -- The Globe and Mail

From the Paperback edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 644 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 338 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0770429149
  • Editeur : Touchstone (17 avril 2012)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B007OV5UNA
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 3.9 étoiles sur 5  167 commentaires
145 internautes sur 147 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Neat and tidy 13 mai 2002
Par "justplainnancy" - Publié sur
I'm always on the lookout for books for my 92-year-old mother -- still a sharp woman, but less able to handle complexity than she once was -- and very much a lady, who objects to an excess of blood and/or vulgarity. The early P.D. James mysteries are perfect! They're very well-crafted, nicely written, but lacking the sprawl and complexity of her later works. This one, set in a psychiatric clinic, is a classic in the sense that a murder was done by one of a limited number of characters, whose movements and motives are key. There are a satisfying number of clues, including some red herrings, dispensed at regular intervals. The characters are nicely sketched. The routines -- and the politics -- of the psychiatric clinic make for an especially strong setting. The whole thing unfolds in just over 200 pages and reaches a satisfying, sufficiently logical conclusion. Originally written in the early 1960s, "A Mind for Murder" has a decidedly old-fasioned feel, but is fun to read nonetheless. And for those who love the later P.D. James books, taking another look at her early work makes it doubly fun. My mother liked the book; so do I.
43 internautes sur 43 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Simple and Straight-Forward 12 juin 2004
Par C. T. Mikesell - Publié sur
I found this early mystery by P.D. James to be quite an enjoyable read. In her later books she tends to go a little overboard giving her characters interior monologues, but she doesn't do that much here. We learn a little about Superintendent Dalgliesh's late wife and his feelings for her, but there's no angsty-ness to it. Dalgliesh does worry that he won't be able to crack the case, but with the number of correct hunches he plays James does well to keep him humble.
The mystery, like the characters, is pretty straightforward too. James fairly well leads you down the path of whom to suspect, but throws in a couple inconsistencies to keep you guessing. Ultimately those inconsistencies are explained and the ending is given the obligatory twist. The story could have done with a few less characters: Keeping track of who's who and to whom they're doing what got muddy a couple times. Still, James does a good job of isolating the few key characters and if you keep steadily marching forward it's not too hard to keep up.
There is a charming naivete about this story. A modern author would have to have some of the LSD (medicinal purposes only) get mixed in with Dalgliesh's tea, and the electroshock therapy room and creaking dumbwaiter would have to be put to equally sinister purposes as well. While there is a lot of sexual activity going on at the clinic, nothing prurient takes place within the pages of the book; there's one morning-after scene and James does bring herself to write the word "thigh" a couple times, but that's about as smutty as it gets.
At this point in her writing career, James hasn't quite found her voice yet. Nevertheless, she's able to craft an above-average mystery with well-developed male and female characters. Having read some of her more-complicated novels before reading this, I wasn't put off by the simplicity of it. I don't know if the reverse would hold true: If you read this before books like "A Taste for Death" or "Skull Beneath the Skin," you might find her later work overwhelming. Regardless, this stands on its own as a good mystery by a great mystery writer.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Short, but very sweet 10 octobre 1998
Par Un client - Publié sur
A great introduction for readers to the world of P.D. James, this is a serious, literate mystery, though it's still considerably lightweight fare. Not at the same level as her later books, but not as mind-boggling, either. The story features Adam Dalgliesh, who is investigating the stabbing murder of one of the staff at a London psychiatric clinic. Fairly well-developed characters, intelligent use of medical and clinical knowledge (James had a lot of life experience, making her one of today's most realistic writers), a clever whodunit plot with intriguing detection, and a jarring twist ending. That James sparkle is already starting to show at this point.
13 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Masterpiece 17 mars 2007
Par J. Robinson - Publié sur
This is my second James novel. I read The Murder Room which was written by James a few years ago and I thought that it was dreadful. It is a 500 page bore or snore. The present work was written over 40 years ago by a James in her prime. It is short and compact; and, it has a nicely balanced structure with good characters. It is written with straightforward and simple prose and it is a compelling read that is hard to put down. In short, it is what one can describe as a masterpiece.

The book opens with the literary hook: a murder in a clinic basement of the Steen Psychiatric Clinic during a busy Friday afternoon in London. On discovery of the murder, the doors of the clinic are sealed, Dalgliesh is called in, and we are off on the hunt for the killer, or killers.

The novel has an interesting set of characters, but not too many characters. It appears that there are just a half dozen suspects with a motivation to be involved with the killing. The mystery unfolds slowly, and the reader is given a few clues just ahead of the Dalgliesh.

Readers will not be disappointed, and the book demonstrates the fame and ability of James as a crime writer. Most will want to keep the book and set it aside to read again in the future. Also, the book demonstrates again that more is not always better than less. In the elaborate 550 page slow moving story told in The Murder Room, the author has a 95 page introduction and no crime until around page 130. We wait as Dalgliesh does not enter the investigation until almost page 200. Thankfully, all of that type of writing is missing here. In a Mind to Murder, the story is well underway and the reader is fully engaged by page 10. James tells a well balanced and a compelling tale in half the space.

Since the book came out in 1963, it has had approximately seven printings by three different publishers including Faber and Faber, and Penguin. It is easy to understand why.
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not as good as I was expecting but tolerable... 20 octobre 2003
Par Caroline Spaulding - Publié sur
I've heard a great deal of hype about PD James, but I was disappointed in this one. The details are a little muddled, there is a strange and unexplained transition in the inspector's investigation towards the end of the book, and the writing itself is not engaging. Agatha Christie at her weakest is better than this. Still, it's somewhat of a page-turner and I will be reading another PD James book soon just to give her another chance. James has the right idea with this plot but just doesn't carry it off somehow.
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