Secrets and lies will keep you spellbound

This book is vintage PD James. It is a hugely satisfying novel from an 87-year-old writer who has a firm grip on the English detective genre.

The Private Patient features James' Police Commander Adam Dalglish and his team. Dalglish is also a poet and something of an intellectual.

He and his team have to find the murderer of an unpopular journalist who was heartily disliked by everyone who knew her.

The journalist was a loner who had no confidants. Her own mother hardly knew anything about her daughter's life.

Dalglish pieces together the last days of the journalist and painstakingly peels off layers of secrecy to uncover her miserable life.

There is a whiff of child abuse, a cold and dysfunctional English middleclass family and obsessive love.

There is also the typical charming layabout sponger.

A second murder - of the only person who showed any grief at the journalist's death - gives an urgency to the pace of the investigation.

James' characters are finely drawn and lifelike. Every chapter has a little twist or revelation that moves the mystery forward.

There is a logical and meticulous unfolding of police procedure fuelled by the disclosures of the witnesses. And the mistakes made by the suspects as they try to extricate themselves from the pitiless yet detached eye of the law. Highly recommended.