I have a confession. Although I was glued to the P.D. James Inspector Dalgliesh television series years ago, I have never read a P.D. James book. Consequently, when Sophie Portas got in touch from Faber to say they will commemorate P. D. James’s centenary year with a year-long celebration of her work, sharing archive content with the hashtag #PDJames100 and will publish, for the first time in book form, her short story The Part-Time Job, I knew I had to read it. My enormous thanks to Sophie for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.
The Part-Time Job will be released on 14th July and is available for pre-order here.
My only regret is that I shan’t be alive to savour my retrospective triumph. But that is of small account. I savour it every day of my life. I shall have done the one thing I resolved to do when I was twelve years old – and the world will know it.
Follow the ‘Queen of Crime’ as she takes us into the mind of a man who has waited decades to enact his patient, ingenious revenge on a school bully.
My Review of The Part-Time Job
Revenge is a dish best served cold!
What a cracking little book. The Part-Time Job contains a short story from P.D. James but also an essay Murder Most Foul that I wasn’t expecting.
Murder Most Foul is a super insight into the mind of one of our most popular and influential crime writers. P.D. James gives her views on crime writing and how she has developed her craft in a manner I found fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed this bonus content I wasn’t expecting because it took me closer to the author and her writing rationale. I can imagine any aspiring crime writer – particularly anyone writing psychological crime – would be incredibly interested in this piece.
However, it is The Part-Time Job that is the absolute gem in this book. It is the epitome of a perfect crime story in spite of being only 20 pages long. Indeed, I can imagine it being a television programme every bit as much as any longer text because so much is packed into it with fabulous economy of language and taut plotting. The narrator waits years to exact revenge on his school bully, and carries out planning that revenge with surgical precision so that the reader is left reeling. I thought the encircling structure of the first and last lines was just sublime, but you’ll have to read the story to find out why.
I loved the fact that the narrator isn’t named because not only does this add a chilling undercurrent of the anonymous dangerous stranger we all fear, but it affords the opportunity for any reader to project themselves into his shoes more effectively. Any one of us may have been bullied and may have wanted to exact revenge. Here, vicariously, is our opportunity to do so. There’s an intimacy too because the first person voice addresses the reader on several occasions directly, making them feel as if they are special, hearing the facts and thought processes first hand. It felt wrong to rejoice in the activities of the narrator because they are morally wrong in so many ways, but I wanted him to succeed. I think this is because there is considerable dry and wry humour in his words too. I loved the fact he wanted to kill his bully, but was terrified the war might kill him first!
The Part-Time Job is an absolute cracker. It’s exemplary for aspiring writers to see how a narrative is plotted and executed so flawlessly, but for readers it is a superb diversion that can be read on a commute, in a lunch break or as a tasty amuse bouche before reading other of P.D. James’ work. It’s the first of her writing I’ve read but it has persuaded me I have missed out on a mega-star of crime writing for far too long. I loved it.
About P.D. James
P.D. James – awarded an OBE in 1983 and made a life peer in 1991 – was the bestselling, internationally acclaimed author of eighteen crime novels, including the Adam Dalgliesh and Cordelia Gray series, as well as The Children of Men and two posthumously published collections of short stories. She won numerous awards for crime writing internationally, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and a CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing.