I read The Murder Room for one of those reasons; I’d recorded the two-part TV adaptation only to discover that the second part didn’t record. So I bought the book against a moment when I felt like reading an English police procedural.
The plot, without spoilers: murders at a fictional London museum, the Dupayne, which mimic famous murders from the inter-war years that are showcased in the museum’s ‘Murder Room’. This is late period P D James; a goodreads review says it is the 12th of her 14th Adam Dalgliesh stories, and it is set in the early 2000s, when it was written.
On the upside, it’s well written, and I kept turning the pages, even though it is not short. There was also something to admire about the construction, which effectively builds a kind of country house mystery around the characters bound together by the museum.
On the downside, it was hard to believe that Commander Dalgliesh’s Special Investigation Unit would be unleashed on such a case, and although the reason was hinted at, it turned out not to be relevant to the story in any way, even as a red herring. It was hard to care about most of the characters, especially the three members of Dupayne family, whom one would happily have gunned down in the first chapters. I also found it hard to believe that the killer would have killed for the motives ascribed to them. And I’m always suspicious of stories that effectively use coincidence to unveil critical plot points.
But I did care about whether Dalgliesh would succeed in finding love with Emma Lavenham, with his efforts somewhat impeded by the investigation. The resolution of that sub-plot, carried over, apparently from the previous book, was drawn out by one of those London days when none of the transport worked.