Shroud for a Nightingale by P D James

Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL, known as P. D. James, is an English crime writer and a life  peer in the House of Lords, UK.  She was born on 3 August 1920 and died 27 November 2014.
pdjames Shroud for a Nightingale is a book my mother gave me many years ago.  I probably read it then, but had forgotten the story, so when I came across it, I read it again.

I have also reviewed her novel, Children of Men at

Nightingale House is where a group of third year student nurses live while they learn the art of nursing.  There is a routine inspection of the nursing school by the General Nursing Council.  It ends horribly with the death of a student during a demonstration of intra-gastric feeding tubes.   One of the students, Heather Pearce, who is playing the part of the patient during a demonstration, is internally fed bathroom disinfectant instead of milk and dies thrashing on the floor in front of the  class.   Jo Fallon was meant to be the patient.  However, she was taken ill at the last minute and Heather Pearce was the substitute.
The question is raised as to whether this is an accident or murder.  Then, this gruesome beginning is compounded with a second student death.  Another student nurse is found dead in her bed.  This time Jo Fallon is the victim;  poison is the method.  It is now clear this is murder and Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the murders.   His implacable determination to get at the truth is welcomed by the nursing staff with varying degrees of coolness.  Dalgliesh is not quite as developed as a character as he is in later books, but the basics are there.

nightingale bookI love P.D. James’s attention to detail: the descriptions bring the locations so vividly to mind.  There are a lot of red herrings in this story and I am not ashamed to say that I changed my mind a couple of times before I got to the end of the book.  I still did not guess the end of the story.   She never fails to produce clever, unexpected solutions, and a dramatically satisfying ending, and Shroud for a Nightingale is no different.  I enjoyed it and highly recommend it.

Valerie Penny


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