Month: April 2017

Review: Death of An Expert Witness, 1977 (Adam Dalgliesh #6) by P. D. James

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

I submit this post to Crimes of the Century hosted by Rich Westwood at Past Offences. The year under review this month is #1977

Faber and Faber, 2010. Format: Paperback. First published in 1977 by Faber and Faber Limited. ISBN: 978-0-571-25339-5. Length: 400 pages.

18349.books.origjpgSynopsis: When a young girl is found murdered in a field, the scientific examination of the exhibits is just a routine job for the staff of Hoggatt’s forensic science laboratory. But nothing could have prepared them for the brutal death of one of their own. When the senior biologist is found dead in his laboratory Commander Dalgliesh is called to the bleak fens of East Anglia, where the murderer is lying in wait to strike again. With a wealth of potential suspects and cautious forensic scientists quick to pass on the blame, Dalgliesh becomes embroiled in the complicated passions that lie hidden beneath the calm surface of the laboratory.

My take: Death of An Expert Witness is the sixth instalment in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series by PD James. It was published two years after The Black Tower, see my review here. If my information is correct, Death of An Expert Witness was the book that consolidated her as a successful writer of detective novels. It should be noted, in my view, that the same year of its publication, the third instalment in Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, came into light. Besides, barely two years before, Ruth Rendell and Reginald Hill had published also their novels Shake Hands Forever (Inspector Wexford #9) and An April Shroud (Dalziel and Pascoe #4). These four writers – PD James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter, in words of Val McDermid, reshaped the way we experience the English crime novel.

Coming back to the novel that we have before us, it is worth saying that the action unfolds within a closed community around the people working at a forensic laboratory located in the fictional town of Chevisham, East Anglia. The story revolves around the investigation into the brutal murder of Dr Edwin Lorrimer, the Principal Scientific Officer in charge of the Biology Department at Hoggatt’s laboratory, someone very little appreciated by the rest of his colleagues and, consequently, almost all the staff becomes a potential suspect. Besides there’s the added difficulty that most of them are experts in some field of forensic discipline. And, last but not least, it is very well written, following the tradition and canon of the classic detective stories. In fact it can be consider a locked-room mystery or an impossible crime. The direct involvement in the case of Commander Adam Dalgliesh and Detective Chief Inspector Massingham might seem to be out of place, had it not been for the particular circumstances of the case. The main facts were:

‘The skull smashed apparently by a heavy mallet which Lorrimer had been examining. The Lab found properly locked when the Assistant Police Liaison Officer an the young CO arrived at eight-thirty this morning. Lorrimer’s keys in his pocket. He often worked late and most of the Lab staff knew that he proposed to do so last night. No sign of a break-in. Four set of keys. Lorrimer had one set as the senior PSO and Deputy Security Officer. The Assistant Police Liaison Officer has the second. Lorrimer or one of the Police Liaison Officers were the only people authorized to lock or open up the building. The Director keeps the third set of keys in his security cupboard, and the fourth are in a safe at Guy’s Marsh police station in case the alarm rings in the night.’

I would also like to stress some of the innovations introduced by these modern classics detective fiction in vogue during the late 70s and 80s of the last century and of which this book is a good example. In the author’s own words: ‘Crime fiction today is more realistic in its treatment of murder, more aware of scientific advances in the detection of crime, more sensitive to the environment in which it is set, more sexually explicit and closer than it has ever been to mainstream fiction. ‘ ( PD James, Talking about Detective Fiction, Faber & Faber, 2009, Paperback edition, page 146) Of all this Death of An Expert Witness is a prime example, and it is precisely for these reasons that I heartily recommend its reading.

About the author: Phyllis Dorothy James (1920-2014) was born in Oxford and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience was used in her novels. She was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of Arts and served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of the Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London. She was an Honorary Bencher of the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. She won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award and The National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature (US). She received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors, stepping down from the post in August 2013. Books in the Adam Dalgliesh Mystery series: Cover Her Face (1962); A Mind to Murder (1963); Unnatural Causes (1967); Shroud for a Nightingale (1971); The Black Tower (1975); Death of an Expert Witness (1977); A Taste for Death (1986); Devices and Desires (1989); Original Sin (1994); A Certain Justice (1997); Death in Holy Orders (2001); The Murder Room (2003); The Lighthouse (20059, and The Private Patient (2008. I’m showing in bold the books I’ve read so far.

My rating: A (I loved it)

Death of An Expert Witness has been reviewed at Mysteries in Paradise, DJ´S KRIMIBLOG, and Dancing with Skeletons, among others.

Faber & Faber publicity page

Simon & Schuster publicity page

audible

P. D. James obituary The Guardian

P. D,. James dies at 94 by Marilyn Stasio 

My hero: PD James (1920–2014) by Val McDermid

Muerte de un forense de PD James

Simpsis: Cuando una joven aparece asesinada en un campo, el examen científico de las pruebas es sólo un trabajo rutinario para el personal del laboratorio forense de Hoggatt. Pero no se enecontraban preparados para la brutal muerte de uno de los suyos. Así, cuando el principal biólogo aparece muerto en su laboratorio, el comandante Dalgliesh acude hasta los desoladores fens (marismas) de East Anglia, donde el asesino está a la espera de volver a atacar. Con una amplia gama de sospechosos potenciales y de cautelosos científicos forenses que se aparesuram a echar la culpa a los demás, Dalgliesh se ve envuelto en las complicadas pasiones que descansan escondidas bajo la tranquila superficie del laboratorio.

Mi opinión: Muerte de un forense es la sexta entrega de la serie de PD James protagonizada por Adam Dalgliesh. Fue publicada dos años después de La torre negra, vea mi reseña aquí. Si mi información es correcta, Muerte de un forense fue el libro que la consolidó como una escritora de novelas policíacas de éxito. Cabe señalar, en mi opinión, que el mismo año de su publicación, vió la luz la tercera entrega de la serie Inspector Morse de Colin Dexter, El mundo silencioso de Nicholas Quinn. Además, apenas dos años antes, Ruth Rendell y Reginald Hill habían publicado también sus novelas Eterna despedida (Inspector Wexford #9) y An April Shroud (Dalziel y Pascoe #4). Estos cuatro escritores – PD James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill y Colin Dexter, en palabras de Val McDermid, transformaron nuestra forma de entender la novela policíaca inglesa.

Volviendo a la novela que tenemos ante nosotros, vale la pena decir que la acción se desarrolla en una comunidad cerrada alrededor de las personas que trabajan en un laboratorio forense ubicado en la ciudad ficticia de Chevisham, East Anglia. La historia gira en torno a la investigación sobre el brutal asesinato del Dr. Edwin Lorrimer, Director Científico a cargo del Departamento de Biología del laboratorio Hoggatt, alguien muy poco apreciado por el resto de sus colegas y, en consecuencia, casi todo el personal se convierte en un potencial sospechoso. Además existe la dificultad añadida de que la mayoría de ellos son expertos en algún campo de la disciplina forense. Y, por último pero no por ello menos importante, está muy bien escrita, siguiendo la tradición y el canon de las historias de detectives clásicas. De hecho, puede considerarse un misterio de una habitación cerrada o un crimen imposible. La implicación directa en el caso del comandante Adam Dalgliesh y del inspector jefe Massingham podría parecer fuera de lugar, si no hubiera sido por las circunstancias particulares del caso. Los principales hechos fueron:

“El cráneo aparentemente machacado por un pesado mazo que Lorrimer había estado examinando. El Laboratorio se encontraba correctamente cerrado cuando el oficial auxiliar de la policía de enlace y la joven ofcial administrativo llegaron a las ocho y media de la mañana. Las llaves de Lorrimer en su bolsillo. A menudo trabajaba hasta tarde y la mayoría del personal del laboratorio sabía que se proponía hacerlo anoche. No hay señal alguna de un robo. Existen cuatro juego de llaves. Lorrimer tenía un juego en su calidad de oficial científico principal senior y de oficial adjunto de seguridad. El oficial auxiliar de la policía de enlace tiene el segundo juego. Lorrimer o uno de los oficiales de enlace de la policía eran las únicas personas autorizadas para cerrar o abrir el edificio. El director guarda el tercer juego de llaves en su armario de seguridad y el cuarto está en una caja fuerte en la comisaría de la policía de Guy Marsh, en el caso de que la alarma suene en la noche.”

También me gustaría destacar algunas de las innovaciones introducidas por estos clásicos modernos de la novela de detectives en boga a finales de los años 70 y 80 del siglo pasado y de los cuales este libro es un buen ejemplo. En palabras de la propia autora: “La novela criminal es hoy más realista en su tratamiento del asesinato, más consciente de los avances científicos en la investigación del delito, más sensible al entorno en el que está ambientada, más sexualmente explícita y más cercana de lo que nunca ha estado a la corriente principal en la literatura.” (PD James, Todo lo que sé sobre novela negra, Faber & Faber, 2009, edición en rústica, pág. 146). De todo esto Muerte de un forense es un buen ejemplo, y es precisamente por estos motivos por lo que recomiendo encarecidamente su lectura.

Sobre la autora: Phyllis Dorothy James (Oxford, 1920 – 2014) fue una escritora británica, destacada artífice del resurgimiento de la novela policíaca en su línea clásica. Hija de un funcionario de clase media, Phyllis Dorothy James creció en la ciudad universitaria de Cambridge. Por dificultades económicas tuvo que interrumpir sus estudios a los dieciséis años, y a partir de entonces se convirtió en autodidacta. En 1941 se casó con un estudiante de medicina que regresó de la guerra mentalmente desquiciado y pasó gran parte de su vida en hospitales psiquiátricos. Para sacar adelante a su familia (su marido y sus dos hijos), James trabajó en la administración de un hospital. Tras la muerte de su esposo en 1964, trabajó como funcionaria en el Departamento de Política Policial y Criminal como experta en delincuencia juvenil. Esta experiencia le sirvió sin duda como base para su actividad de escritora, iniciada ya en la madurez con novelas policíacas en las que destaca su dominio del detalle y la perfecta caracterización de los personajes. Con Innocent Blood (Sangre inocente, 1980) asentó su fama como novelista, mientras que la novela futurista The Children of Men (Hijos de hombres, 1992) confirmó su talento narrativo más allá del género detectivesco. Su obra Cover Her Face(Cubridle el rostro), de 1962, fue la primera de una serie de novelas policíacas de gran éxito, entre las cuales destacan, junto a las ya citadas, Shroud for a Nightingale (Mortaja para un ruiseñor, 1971); The Black Tower(La torre negra, 1975); Death of an Expert Witness (Muerte de un forense, 1977); A Taste for Death (Sabor a muerte, 1986); Devices and Desires (Intrigas y deseos, 1989); y A Certain Justice (Una cierta justicia, 1997). Muchas de sus historias fueron adaptadas para la televisión. En 1991 ingresó en la Cámara de los Lores con el título de Baroness James of Holland Park.

Mi valoración:  A (Me encantó)

Ediciones B página de publicidad

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OT: Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly with His Song

The story behind Killing Me Softly with His Song

Lady Macbeth (2016) directed by William Oldroyd Premieres Today in Madrid

UK / 89 min / Color / Sixty Six Pictures, iFeatures Dir: William Oldroyd Pro: Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly Scr: Alice Birch, based on the book Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov Cin: Ari Wegner Mus: Dan Jones  Cast: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Christopher Fairbank, Fleur Houdijk, Bill Fellows, Rebecca Manley, Ian Conningham, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Golda Rosheuvel, Kema Sikazwe, David Kirkbride, Joseph Teague, Cliff Burnett, Alan Billingham Synopsis:  The debut feature by accomplished theater director William Oldroyd relocates Nikolai Leskov’s play Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District to Victorian England. Florence Pugh is forceful and complex as Lady Katherine, who enters into an arranged marriage with the domineering, repressed Alexander (Paul Hilton), and must contend with her husband’s even more unpleasant mine-owner father (Christopher Fairbank). In this constrictive new milieu, she finds carnal release with one of her husband’s servants (Cosmo Jarvis), but there are profound consequences to her infidelity. Boasting deft performances by an outstanding ensemble cast, Lady Macbeth is a rousing parable about the price of freedom. A Roadside Attractions release (Source: MoMA) Release Dates: 10 September 2016 (Toronto International Film Festival); 19 September 2016 (Donostia-San Sebastian International Film Festival); France 12 April 2017; UK 28 April 2017; Spain 28 April 2017. IMDb Rating: 7.1

Acclaimed theatre director William Oldroyd relocates Nikolai Leskov’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk to 19th-century England, in this Gothic tale about a young woman trapped in a marriage of convenience whose passionate affair unleashes a maelstrom of murder and mayhem on a country estate. William Oldroyd has built a reputation in the theatre, particularly as Director in Residence at London’s Young Vic theatre, where, amongst other things, he staged Frank McGuinness’ daring update of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. Now Oldroyd makes a seamless transition to filmmaking with his beautifully controlled adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s famous Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, the source material for Shostakovich’s opera of the same name. Yet “theatrical” is not a word one would use to describe Oldroyd’s debut feature film. His work with the cast is faultless, but what’s most striking about Lady Macbeth is its sheer formal beauty. This is a film for anyone who loves to see a camera in exactly the right position, moving in exactly the right way. Its story concerns Lady Katherine (Florence Pugh), a young misfit in the stifling social atmosphere of Victorian England. Locked in a marriage of convenience to a much older man, marooned on an estate amidst the northern heaths of County Durham, Katherine strains against the social mores of the time. Lectured at by the local priest, tormented by a father-in-law who expects her to provide an heir, she paces her constrictive world like a wild animal looking for escape. She soon finds an outlet for her passions in Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis), a young groom who is one of her husband’s many servants. Those passions could be their undoing. Portrayed by Pugh with an almost primal fervour, Katherine is a powerful revision of the Gothic heroine. Lady Macbeth‘s strange tale of love and betrayal revolves around her force of will, and Oldroyd takes hold of this topsy-turvy drama with the authority of a master storyteller. A brilliant filmmaker is born. (Source: Toronto International Film Festival)

About William Oldroyd: William’s first feature film, Lady Macbeth, premiered at Toronto International Film Festival 2016 and was subsequently chosen as a top ten pick of the festival in both Variety and Rolling Stone. BAFTA, Variety, The Observer and Evening Standard have identified William as a director to watch in the future. William’s short film Best won the Sundance London Short Film Competition in 2013 and was then invited to be screened at the Sundance Festival, 2014. Previously he had worked with film and video at art college before becoming a successful theatre and opera director in the UK and abroad. As Director in Residence at the Young Vic Theatre, London he staged contemporary adaptations of European classics such as Ghosts by Ibsen. Subsequently he was invited to direct adaptations of Sartre in Tokyo, Beckett in Munich and Shakespeare in UK for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works Festival. Opera productions include works by Pergolesi in Portugal and Donizetti at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. Lady Macbeth was adapted by Alice Birch from the mid-nineteenth century novella by Nikolai Leskov and produced by Fodhla Cronin O’Reilly with the support of the BFI, BBC Films and Creative England through iFeatures. It has already won the FIPRESCI International Critics’ prize at San Sebastián and Thessaloniki, the Critics’ Choice at Zurich and the Cineuropa prize for outstanding cinematic contribution at Les Arcs, France. William is represented by United Agents in U.K. and by WME in the US.

Florence Pugh – ‘I have been told for about three years now not to get big-headed’

The Hollywood Reporter film review

OT: Treasures from the Hispanic Society of America. Visions of the Hispanic World

Beginning April 4, the Museo del Prado, with the exclusive support of  Fundación BBVA, offers to the public the exceptional opportunity of enjoying more than two hundred works of art from the Hispanic Society Museum & Library founded to promote the art and culture of the Hispanic world in The United States.

The Hispanic Society holds the most important collection of Hispanic art outside of our borders. With more than 18,000 works of art that spans from the Paleolithic Age to the 20th century, an extraordinary research library with more than 250,000 manuscripts and 35,000 rare books, which includes 250 incunables. There is no other institution in the world, even in Spain, that alone can offer such a complete vision of our history, art and culture.

Archaeological artifacts, Roman sculpture, ceramics, glass, furniture, textiles, silverworks, medieval and Islamic works of art, masterworks from the Golden Age, colonial and 19th century Latin American art and Spanish painting from the 19th and 20th centuries are arranged chronologically and thematically. Their Spanish paintings, including The Duchess of Alba by Goya or Gaspar de Guzmán, Conde-Duque de Olivares by Velázquez, are in conversation with those of the Museo del Prado.

Through September 10, the Museo del Prado will, in galleries A, B and C of the Jerónimos building, house the treasures of the museum and library of the Hispanic Society, an institution located in Upper Manhattan in New York, founded in 1904 by Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955), one of America’s greatest philanthropists. He created an institution that reflected an appreciation of Spanish culture and the study of the literature and art of Spain, Portugal and Latin America.

“Treasures of Hispanic Society of America. Visions of the Hispanic World” brings together more than two hundred works of art including paintings, drawings, and sculpture; archaeological artifacts and decorative arts, liturgical vestments, furniture and manuscripts from the library, creating a fascinating chronological and thematic experience of the highlights of their vast collections.

With this exhibition, which occupies all of the temporary exhibition galleries in the new extension, the Museo del Prado – as they did for the exhibition “The Hermitage in the Prado” in 2012 – offers its visitors the privilege of enjoying a museum within another. In this case, the renovation of the Hispanic Society’s galleries has allowed the treasures of their collections of Spanish and Latin American art, along with rare books and manuscripts, to travel to Spain.

Many of the works of art that will be shown have not previously been exhibited or were unknown, such as the reliquary busts of Santa Marta and Santa María Magdalena by Juan de Juni, and the Fates of Man, by Manuel Chili, known as Caspicara; and others have recently been identified such as the Map of Tequaltiche, which was thought to be lost. Besides the individual value of each work of art, this exceptional grouping gives context to the magnitude of the rich history of Hispanic culture in the Iberian Peninsula, America and Philippines that spans more than 3,000 years, shows a quality of art works that no museum outside of Spain can compete with, and demonstrates the passion of the unique collector who put his resources and knowledge towards the vision of creating a Spanish museum in America.

The extraordinary selection of paintings includes master works such as Portrait of a Little Girl, Camillo Astalli and Gaspar de Guzmán, Conde-Duque de Olivares by Velázquez, Pieta by El Greco, The Prodigal Son by Murillo, Santa Emerenciana by Zurbarán and the emblematic Duchess of Alba by Goya, especially conserved for this occasion at the Museo del Prado with the collaboration of Fundación Iberdrola. Also represented are paintings by post-impressionist and modern artists, such as Zuloaga, Sorolla and Santiago Rusiñol.

The selection of sculpture includes, among others, the Efigie of  Mencía Enríquez de Toledo from the Workshop of Gil de Siloé, the terracota, The Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine, by Luisa Roldán, and Fates of Man, the group of polychromed wood sculptures by Manuel Chili, known as Caspicara.

The exhibition also includes a selection of important archaeological artifacts, among them Celtiberian jewelry, Bell-Beaker vessels and a Visigothic belt buckle. Completing the survey, is a significant selection of decorative arts, with Renaissance and Baroque metalwork, ceramics from Manises, Talavera and Alcora, and an exquisite Pyxis made of ivory with gold plated hinges. Alongside these objects are textiles including a Fragment of the tunic of Prince Felipe de Castilla and a Nazrid silk textile.

An innovative mounting technique will allow the important holdings of the library of the Hispanic Society to be displayed in such a way that it can be appreciated in all its splendor, relevant works include A grant (Privilegio) issued by Alfonso VII, king of Castile and León, Biblia sacra iuxta versionem vulgata. Bible in Latin; unique letters such as Holograph instructions for his son Philip, and the Letter to Phillip II of Spain from Elizabeth I, Queen of England and the Holograph letter, signed “Diego de Silva Velazquez” to Damián Gotiens, and various examples of maps including Portolan Atlas, by Battista Agnese and the Mapamundi by Juan Vespucci.

Archer Milton Huntington. Founder of The Hispanic Society of America

Archer Milton Huntington, only son of one of the wealthiest families in The United States, from a young age possessed a profound interest in the Hispanic world. His education and numerous trips to Europe inspired an interest in collecting, always with the idea of creating a museum.

In less than forty years, Huntington created a library and museum designed to elevate the study of Hispanic art through unparalleled collections in both scope and quality. At the same time, he published various facsimiles of important rare books and manuscripts. Huntington, in an effort to not deprive Spain of its artistic treasures, acquired most of his collection outside of the country. One can confirm, as did Jonathan Brown, that Huntington saw the Hispanic Society as an encyclopedic depository of Spanish art and literature.

Huntington was one of the first Hispanists in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. For this reason he was awarded by numerous American universities. He was an active member of various Spanish museums and was invested as member of the Spanish Royal Academies.

This exhibition pays homage to Huntington’s lifelong work for The Hispanic Society Museum & Library in the diffusion and study of Spanish culture in The United States of America.

For more information on the exhibition and related talks and interviews, please visit: https://www.museodelprado.es/en/whats-on/exhibition/visions-of-the-hispanic-world-treasures-from-the/c1b08f10-d0d9-499f-8969-160e74000d5b

 

OT: Patatas Bravas

An English journalist said with contempt that patatas bravas “are nothing more than chips with ketchup”. This route along some of the best places where you can taste patatas bravas will confirm you that he was wrong. Don’t forget to check it on your next visit to Madrid. Patatas bravas (spicy potatos), also called “patatas a la brava” or “papas bravas”, is a dish native to Spain, often served as a “tapa” in bars.

You can find a nice recipe here if you want to try it yourself.