An Unsuitable Job For A Woman by P.D. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A very clever title for a book about an intelligent, self directed young woman named Cordelia with a talent for detective work who must take on her first solo case after the death of her boss. The case takes her to Cambridge, where a promising student has apparently killed himself. There are several discrepancies in this account that Cordelia must unpick. The truth looks considerably more sinister. The plot unfolds logically and systematically with skillful surprises and misleads. I am not the target audience for mysteries, so I am not very good at reading them. They are written for the reader who pays close attention to every detail as they attempt to figure out who did it. I don't. More often than not, I can guess the guilty party, though. In this case, I didn't. The writing is vivid and captures the feel of Cambridge life and its odd assortment of eccentric characters.
The end had several unexpected twists that were brilliantly set up throughout the course of the narrative, and yet were not predictable (in my opinion, at least.) The end tied up a minor plot point in a very satisfying way. My only criticism of the plot is that I did not believe that the mysterious message left in the prayer book was that easy to decipher. I don't think such a message would actually work in real life without more detail. Nevertheless, I cared about the main character, despite her flaws, and I could definitely see myself reading more from P.D. James.
I met the author when she gave a talk at my high school. It was odd, very few people turned out to see her, but she was the first real live author I ever saw talk about the writing process, and I was surprised and pleased to hear that it was so close to my own experience.