Set on Friday 25 October, Adam Dalgliesh visited the Dupayne Museum, a private museum of the inter-war years owned by Neville Dupayne and dedicated to the years of 1919-1939.
One of the galleries of the museum from which the book derives its name, Murder Room, displays exhibits from the most notorious cases of those interwar years.
In comes an agent. The lease of the ownership of the museum rests in the hands of Neville. His signature is all that is needed. But the agent’s suspicion of him not signing triggered a vicious plan: murder him!
‘You can’t have your whole future life ruined because Neville won’t sign a piece of paper, he advised. ‘Yes,’ he has replied gravely, before declaring, ‘If necessary I must put a stop to Neville’
The meeting among the three body of trustees ended in stalemates. Caroline and Marcus, the eldest, want the Museum’s lease renewed while Neville wants it sold out partly to meet his daughter’s need. His daughter, Sarah, who at 34, for the umpteenth time, had experienced another breakup with her lover. Needing a new abode far in New Zealand and a new life altogether she have her eyes on the possible £20,000 each party could possibly get from the sale of the Museum.
Just then, the bombshell was dropped. A body is charred in the garage beside the Dupayne’s Museum. The victim has the habit of picking his Rover car from the garage by six p.m. everyday. Neville Dupayne it is as it would be later discovered. It happened on day Marcus Duapyne went to see him in his Kensington flat — thereby making him a suspect.
In comes Adam Dalgleish, a detective and poet whose busy schedule with cases like this was on the brink of hurling his relationship with Emma into the trash.
The suspicion now is ‘was it an accident, murder or suicide?’ The possibility of accident and suicide have thin hopes. The likeliness of murder has shiny prospect.
In investigating, as it is for all murder cases, too many suspects were to be interviewed. The Museum workers and its volunteers, Dr Neville’s daughter were some of the many. Another David Wilkins, whom Adam Dalgliesh met in his first visit to the museum, too, suddenly joins the long list of interviewee. He became so having admitted to a grievance against the museum.
“With murder, always stay as close as you can to the suspects and the scene of the crime” is a murder investigation tip that proved correct in the book. The murder of first victim is still an unravelled puzzle when a second victim was seen dead in the museum.
Some Canadian guests have been said to be due for visit to the Museum in the course of the investigation. Then, another body was found. This time around in a trunk in the Murder Room.
She has been identified to be Celia Mellock, whom her stepfather, Sir Daniel Holstead, bemoans her virtue.
The murders are looking like copycat murders. The first is an exact play out of Rouse…murder whose victim was set ablaze in the same manner Neville was. And like Rouse, a reckless motorist who ran into Tally Clutton, a worker in the Museum who lives in the cottage of the Museum complete the script with his words: “seems there is bonfire there”. Those were Rouse’s too! Now, yet again, the strangulation of Celia on whose body four dead African violets were found is a play out of Violette Kaye.
Though, in narrating what she saw on the night Neville’s body was charred, Clutton tries to remember everything that is needed to be remembered. Days had however gone before he consciousness struck something and she was willing to inform AD but not until she was struck. Her cat, Tomcat, cried out in the cold one night, and she, with pity and love for him, runs to rescue. Unfortunately for her, she has no clue of the danger awaiting her in the cold night. Her assailant timed it well. She was struck with a metal bar — it walked consciousness away from her. And with the Investigative Team on their way to hear what she had to say, the assailant was quick to zoom off with speed. Unfortunately, the escape was botched: by an accident.
Amazingly, her assailant is the actor of the murders that have been investigated for days – nonstop in the book. Nothing could be more shocking!
Murder Room is more than just a fictional book, P.D. James style of weaving the words together yanks you from your seat, grabs a seat for you in a hall where you watch life performance. The mannerism of characterization is excellent.
James is able to knit history with literature and humour while blending them with crisp mastery of grammar. The descriptions in the book are glorious. And the flow of thought, sleek.
The astonishing use of suspense from start to finish in the book is a loud shout at you, saying ‘if you cannot get to read me now, get me on your shelf now!’ All through the book, readers are left guessing on what might be the next surprise that will grace their sight.
Murder Room is surely a brilliant read. Whoever seeks to get something on crime and history spiced with sheer brilliance, P.D. James’ Murder Room is what you should pick next.