A Good Read

At a private clinic in Dorset, Rhoda Gradwyn has booked an operation to remove a serious facial scar – one which she has borne for many years, but ‘no longer has need of.’ The operation is a success, but by morning Rhoda Gradwyn is dead, and suspicion falls on the staff of Cheverell Manor. Commander Adam Dalgliesh, poet and policeman, is summoned from London to investigate, and before long finds himself dealing with not one, but two unexplained deaths and a whole host of dark secrets.
This is the latest in James’ Dalgliesh series, and it bears all the familiar hallmarks of the earlier novels – a death in a closed community, a complicated back story and a steady move to the conclusion. As ever, the supporting characters are just as important as Dalgliesh himself – both those on his team and those who inhabit Cheverell Manor – and they are deftly drawn, with real and believable traits.
For the reader, the experience is more about contemplation than guesswork – the identity of the killer is revealed three quarters of the way through, and the rest of the novel is concerned with motivation and moral dilemmas. There is also a significant amount of tying up of loose ends from the ongoing stories of Dalgliesh and his colleagues, and the ending is rich and reflective. Some would argue that James’ novels are an acquired taste, being so far from the run of the mill ‘whodunnit’ – I would say they are a taste well worth the acquiring.


The Foggy, Foggy Forest
– Nick Sharratt

This delightful picture book may take some tracking down, but the effort is well- rewarded. Each page takes the reader on a journey through the ‘foggy, foggy forest’ of the title, asking ‘What can this be?’ The beauty is that each page is printed on acetate, and shows a mysterious silhouette, encouraging us to guess at what lies beyond. The answer, of course, is never straightforward!
The book works on a number of levels – younger children will love the repetition and the rhyme as each shadow is revealed, whilst older readers will appreciate the fine details of Sharratt’s colour illustrations and the humour which finds ‘Cinderella and Snow White in a water pistol fight’.
Like the best fiction for very young children, the book stands up to reading and re-reading (and re-reading, and re-reading….). It deserves to become a children’s classic.