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When the notorious investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn booked into Mr Chandler-Powell's private clinic in Dorset for the removal of a disfiguring and long-standing facial scar, she had every prospect of a successful operation by a distinguished surgeon, a week's peaceful convalescence in one of Dorset's most beautiful manor houses and the beginning of a new life. She was never to leave Cheverell Manor alive. Adam Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate the murder, and later a second death, which are to raise even more complicated problems than the question of innocence or guilt.
A chilling and atmospheric work of detective fiction, The Private Patient is the fourteenth novel to feature the inspector protagonist Adam Dalgliesh, from the award-winning author of Children of Men, Death Comes to Pemberley and The Murder Room.
In James's stellar 14th Adam Dalgliesh mystery (after 2006's The Lighthouse), the charismatic police commander knows the case of Rhoda Gradwyn, a 47-year-old journalist murdered soon after undergoing the removal of an old disfiguring scar at a private plastic surgery clinic in Dorset, may be his last; James's readers will fervently hope it isn't. Dalgliesh probes the convoluted tangle of motives and hidden desires that swirl around the clinic, Cheverell Manor, and its grimly fascinating suspects in the death of Gradwyn, herself "a stalker of minds" driven by her lifelong passion for rooting out the truth people would prefer left unknown and then selling it for money. Beyond the book's central moral concern, James meditates on universal problems like aging ("the amorphous flattening of self") and the government's education policy, which targets 50% of the young as university-bound while ensuring that another 40% are uneducated on leaving secondary school. Against her relentless intellectual view of our dying earth, James pits the love she finally grants Dalgleish sufficient to reinvigorate hope and faith so rare in both fiction and reality today.