About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James

Reading more slowly than usual so I am reaching back for a review written in 2008 that I have not previously posted. Not one of the best books of James but better than many authors.


11. - 421.) The Skull Beneath the Skin by P.D. James (1982) – I had not realized it was her female private detective, Cordelia Gray, who is the heroine. Gray, whose detective agency in London specializes in finding lost pets, is hired to be the companion / protector of actress Clarissa Lisle who has been receiving notes containing quotes from the Bible and classic plays concerning death. The beautiful aging Clarissa, who has failed in several recent plays, is attempting to resurrect her career by appearing in an amateur production of The Duchess of Malfi in a private theatre on the island of Courcy off the Dorset coast. Ambrose Gorringe, a passionate Victorian, has restored the castle and a 100 seat theatre. After arrival they learn of the bloody history of the island including a sordid death in World War II. Clarissa is a manipulator of the highest order with her husband Sir George Ralston (her trophy old soldier), dying theatre critic and former lover Ivo Whittington, stepson Simon, host Ambrose, her sister Roma Lisle and long time servant Tolly. When she is bashed to death all are plausible suspects. The castle room featuring objects and memorabilia of Victorian days is a predecessor of museum featured in her recent The Murder Room. The isolated setting is her preferred choice when not set in London. I unreasonably missed Adam Dagleish in the novel. While I could not get as excited about the characters and plot the solution was deft and fair which I have not always found in her mysteries. (Mar. 9/08)


James, P.D. – (2000) - A Taste for Death; (2001) - Death in Holy Orders; (2003) - The Black Tower; (2004) - The Murder Room; (2005) - Death of an Expert Witness; (2006) - The Lighthouse; (2008) - The Skull Beneath the Skin; (2009) - The Private Patient; (2009) - Cover Her Face; Always hardcover (See non-fiction as well)


  1. I like Adam Dalgliesh, too, Bill; I can see how you missed him. I agree with you about James' ability to create a clever and interesting mystery plot, and I've always liked her ability to create atmosphere. She's good at building suspense and at using setting, I think.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. She was a talented writer. She was right to make Dagliesh her primary sleuth.