Book review: Try sleeping after reading murderous P.D. James collection
It might be a crime to have an imagination like P.D. James, the master of murder stories.
Whether in her Adam Dalgliesh mystery series, her stand-alone novels or her short stories, James seemed to know more about murder than anyone.
But if James somehow is guilty of a crime, she’ll serve no time. James died in 2014 at the age of 94, one of the most celebrated authors in British history.
And from the grave, she is still publishing. Knopf now comes out with “Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales,” a second posthumous collection of her short stories after last year’s “The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories.”
The title “Sleep No More” comes from a line in William Shakespeare’s own murderous play, “Macbeth.”
James’ new collection has just as much cunning, greed, determined plotting, evil, doubt, rationalization and regret as in the creepy Shakespeare tragedy.
The short stories are collected from various publications between 1973 and 2006, sometimes under different titles.
The opening story, “The Yo-Yo,” is about a prep school boy in England who is driven by a school chauffeur to his grandmother’s house for Christmas, along with a teacher. The boy witnesses a murder during the nighttime car trip. The story becomes interesting when it when it comes time to report the crime.
Christmas again is a factor in “The Murder of Santa Claus,” about a patriarch owner of an English manor who is found dead after he was supposedly delivering gifts to family and friends asleep in his house on Christmas Eve.
Revenge is a motive in “The Victim.” “The Girl Who Loved Graveyards” is certainly a revealing title. “Mr. Millcroft’s Birthday” is the funniest of the stories, and yes, humor is possible in P.D. James’ world.
The small, hand-sized hardback book is only 194 pages long. It doesn’t take long to read, but it is as absorbing as many longer novels these days. Fans of murder mysteries can hope more story collections are possible.
As in her heyday, James was adept in making readers understand that everyone has murderous thoughts and impulses.
Few people act on them, but sometimes it doesn’t take much to cross the line, or at least to write a story.
“Sleep No More” is a perfect stocking stuffer for the mystery fan on your list.