Investigating the death of a publisher

by Kelvin Smith

In Original Sin, a 1994 Adam Dalgliesh mystery by P.D.James, Peverell Press, “one of the oldest – perhaps the oldest – publishing firm in the country, founded in 1792” is in financial trouble. “The firm”, we learn, “has got to be dragged into the twentieth century or go under”. The company is based at (and owns) Innocent House, on the Thames at Wapping, said to look “like a bloody great Venetian palace”. One solution to Peverell’s problems is to sell the building, but not everyone agrees.

People die; Peverell’s new chairman and managing director, Gerard Etienne, is murdered; Adam Dalgliesh and Kate Miskin investigate; more people die; secrets are revealed; the case (in a section called Final Proof) is closed.

In the middle of all this, Gerard’s sister Claudia tries to reassure the staff that the company “shall survive and prosper”, but we hear they are likely “to start putting out feelers for new jobs”. Given that Claudia also gets it towards the end of the book, they are probably wise to do so.

P.D.James, Original Sin, 1994