Skip to main content

Review - Sleep No More - P. D. James

I like a good murder around Christmas, preferably with a Christmas theme. When I got these six murderous short stories by P. D. James, I was only expecting some good writing, but in practice a couple of them do have Christmas themes, notably the longest entry in the relatively slim volume, The Murder of Santa Claus, which also includes a traditional country house setting. It makes a fitting companion to the four stories in The Mistletoe Murder (though I do feel Faber were rather tight in splitting these into two - both books together would make a good length for a single volume).

These mostly aren't murder mysteries in the traditional sense, in that they tend to be seen from the viewpoint of protagonists rather than detectives, but each story features a killing (probably - one is not entirely honest with us), and each is both a beautiful piece of writing and takes us into the working of a dark mind. My favourite was the most gut-wrenchingly powerful, The Girl Who Loved Graveyards, which starts as a story of a poor orphaned girl, but turns out to be something very different... but each is in its own way a little gem.

Many other writers have tried their hand at short story murder mysteries with mixed success, but I don't think anyone else did it as well as P. D. James. These are miniature masterpieces, and though they don't really fulfil my urge to find the perfect Christmas murder mystery, they are certainly excellent pieces of work that reminded me that I ought to read more P. D. James than I have to date.

Available from and


Popular posts from this blog

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope