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All About: P.J. James's Devices and Desires -- Plot, Places, Themes, and Vocabulary

Updated on July 16, 2014

The Plot as it Goes -- and it Thickens!

In this the eighth mystery novel of the Adam Dalgliesh series, we find Inspector Dalgliesh on a break from his official policeman's duties in a remote section of he headlands of East Anglia. His aunt has recently died a left the bulk of her estate to her favorite nephew. Along with a considerable amount of money Dalgliesh has inherited a windmill in one of the small villages in the Norfolk headlands.

Our inspector will get no rest as he becomes involved with the search for a psychopathic serial killer.

Along with this series of murders there appears to be the possibility of a copycat murderer.

As the novel unfolds he becomes involved with the lives and secrets of a number of people who live in the environs and have connections by job or by relationships to a major nuclear power facility in the area.

If you are a PD James fan you won't be disappointed in this one. I've compiled the following so that you won't have to stop and do research on the words, places, and people referred to in one of Baroness James's best.

Location of Norfork County England

The site of the novel Norfolk County, England.
The site of the novel Norfolk County, England. | Source

The "Devices and Desires" Dictionary


abbatiors - slaughterhouse

A3, (British highway) known as the Portsmouth Road in sections, is a major road connecting London and Portsmouth passing close to Kingston upon Thames, Guildford, Haslemere and Petersfield. For much of its 67-mile (108 km) length, it is classified as a trunk road. Almost all of the road has been built is dual lane each way. Apart from brief sections in London the road travels south west and in sections south-southwest .

acrimony - angry and bitter feelings expressed in harsh words, manner, or disposition

Aga - a type of gas stove. Very expensive. Most model resemble old coal stoves.

ambivalent - Simultaneously experiencing or expressing opposing or contradictory feelings, beliefs, or motivations. Alternately having one opinion or feeling, and displaying another.

anachronistic : Something that's old-fashioned and maybe a little out of place is anachronistic

anodyne - not likely to offend or upset anyone; innocuous; serving to alleviate pain

Ariel to Prospero - Ariel appears in William Shakespeare's play The Tempest. Ariel, a spirit, is bound to serve the magician Prospero, who rescued him from an imprisonment imposed upon him by a witch,Sycorax. Ariel is Prospero's eyes and ears throughout the play, using his magic to cause the “tempest” early in the play.

antipathy - a strong feeling of dislike

Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888) was a British poet and cultural critic whose work is characterized as one who chastises and instructs the reader on contemporary social issues.

assignation - an appointment for a meeting, especially a lover's secret rendezvous.

atavism - recurrence of a trait or character typical of an ancestral form; a throwback

Axminster - a machine-woven carpet with pile tufts inserted mechanically in a variety of textures and patterns


balustrade - a row of repeating balusters, small posts that support the upper rail of a railing.

benison - (an archaic term) - a blessing; benediction

billhook - a cutting or pruning tool with a hooked blade

Blakeney is a coastal village and civil parish in the English county of Norfolk. Blakeney lies within the Norfolk Coast AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and the North Norfolk Heritage Coast

The village is approximately 20 miles north west of Norwich, 5 miles NNW of the larger settlement of Holt, 10 miles west of Cromer and 100 miles NNE of London. Blakeney is known for its bird sanctuary.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945) was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian, dissident anti-Nazi, and founding member of the Confessing Church. His writings on Christianity's role in the secular world have become widely influential. Bonhoeffer was Hung in prison by the Nazis 23 days before the end of the was.

Broadmoor Hospital is a high-security psychiatric hospital at Crowthorne in Berkshire, England. It is the best known of the three high-security psychiatric hospitals in England.The Broadmoor previously housed both sexes but now houses only male patients.

Most of the patients there suffer from severe mental illness; many also have personality disorders. In general, most have been convicted of serious crimes, or been found incompetent to stand trial.

Billy Bunter

William George Bunter (known as Billy Bunter) is a fictional schoolboy created by Charles Hamilton using the pen name Frank Richards. From 1908 to 1940 Billy was featured in stories set in Grayfriars School. Subsequently, Bunter has appeared in novels, on television in plays, and comic strips. Bunter's defining characteristic is his greediness and is dramatically overweight; In many ways he is an unlikable character: obtuse, lazy, deceitful, conceited. and racist. in his own mind he is perfect. Given all of Bunter's “negatives, are offset by from time to time, he displays courage in coming to the aid of others.

Robert Burton (1577-1640) was an English scholar at Oxford University, best known for the classic The Anatomy of Melancholy whose full title was “The Anatomy of Melancholy, What it is: With all the Kinds, Causes, Symptomes, Prognostickes, and Several Cures of it. In Three Maine Partitions with their several Sections, Members, and Subsections. Philosophically, Medicinally, Historically, Opened and Cut Up".

The book is presented as a medical textbook on the subject of melancholia (now termed clinical depression). Though presented as a medical text, The Anatomy of Melancholy is as much a literary work as it is a scientific or philosophical text.


carapace - a hard shell on the back of some animals (e.g. turtles or crabs)

cassoulet - a casserole of white beans baked with herbs and meat (e.g. pork, lamb, fowl )

Cerberus - a 3-headed dog that in Greek mythology guards the entrance to Hades

chancel - the part of a church that contains the altar and seats for the priest and choir

The Chernobyl disaster is widely considered to have been the worst nuclear power plant accident in history.

Church of St. Peter & Paul, Salle

There is a fine set of return stalls in the chancel. Bench ends include heads, a dragon tied up in a knot, a restored pelican in her piety, and a monkey. The misericord seats feature faces. The church is very much as Commander Daliglesh describes.

claustrophobic - not having enough space for people to feel comfortable; having a fear of being in closed or small spaces : having claustrophobia

Crimplene - a trademark synthetic material similar to Terylene, characterized by its crease-resistance

Cromer is a coastal town and civil parish in north Norfolk, England. The town is approximately 20 miles north of the county town, Norwich. The motto 'Gem of the Norfolk Coast” is highlighted on the town's road signs.

Curzon Street is located within the exclusive Mayfair district of London.

Cyclamen is a small but diverse and hardy genus of plants. Cyclamen persicum is often seen for sale throughout the fall and winter, in less hardy zones, as a houseplant. Cyclamen, has small, sweet scented flowers produced on long stems above the foliage.


Elizabeth David (1913 – 1992) was a British food author who, in the mid-20th century, strongly influenced the art of home cooking with articles and books about traditional British dishes.

derisory - of too little value to be considered seriously or expressing a belief that something or someone is ridiculous or valueless.

dinghy - any small boat designed as a tender or lifeboat.


The Ealing Comedies were a series of film comedies produced by Ealing Studios during the period 1947 to 1957.

East Anglia is a region of the U.K. It is one of three constituent parts of the East of England – a first level region. The region's name is derived from the Angles – a tribe originally from northern Germany. East Alglia is comprised of the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and the city of Peterborough.

effluvium - a slight or invisible exhalation or vapor, especially one that is disagreeable or noxious.

egregious - conspicuously bad ; flagrant

en suite - ensuite bathroom or ensuite shower room is a bathroom or shower room attached to and only accessible from a bedroom.

ethereal - in heaven; seeming to belong to another world

exothalmic - bulging of the eyeballs; Characterized by the prominence of the eyeballs.


factotum - having many diverse activities or responsibilities; a general servant .

fairings - are small porcelain ornaments, often incorporating figures, ranging from about three inches to about five inches high, and depict a variety of scenes: humorous, domestic, etc. The fairing almost always incorporates a base and a caption or description.

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918 – 1988) was an American theoretical physicist who assisted in the development of the atomic bomb. Feynman was a keen popularizer of physics through both books and lectures.

fishing smack - any of various fore-and-aft-rigged fishing vessels of rather large size, often containing a well to keep the catch alive.

Edward Morgan Forster (1879 – 1970) was an English novelist, short story writer, essayist and librettist. He is known best for his ironic and well-plotted novels examining class difference and hypocrisy in early 20th-century British society (e.g. A Room With a View (1908)). A Passage to India (1924) was his greatest success.

Fortnum & Mason is a department store in central London. Worldwide.Fortnum & Mason is recognized internationally for its high quality goods and as an iconic British symbol.

freehold - (British) an estate held in fee simple, a fee without limitation to any class of heirs or restrictions on transfer of ownership

friable - easily crumbled or pulverized <friable soil>

frission - a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion


Inspector Ganesh V. Ghote is a fictional police officer who is the main character in H. R. F. Keating's detective novels. Ghote is an inspector in the police force of Bombay (now Mumbai), India.

guernsey - a seaman's knitted woollen sweater


Happisburgh Lighthouse in Happisburgh on the North Norfolk coast is the only independently operated lighthouse in Great Britain. It is also the oldest working lighthouse in East Anglia.

The lighthouse is painted white with three red bands.

Harrods is an upmarket department store located in Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, in Kensington and Chelsea, London.

The Harrods motto is Omnia Omnibus Ubique—All Things for All People, Everywhere. Several of its departments, including the seasonal Christmas department and the Food Halls, are world famous.

Emma, Lady Hamilton (1765 -1815) is best remembered as the mistress of Lord Nelson and as the muse of George Romney. Emma became the subject of many of Romney's most famous portraits. Romney had a lifelong obsession with her, sketching her nude and clothed in many poses he used to create paintings and drawings in her absence.

headland - a narrow area of land that sticks out into the sea; promontory

hedonistic - the doctrine that pleasure or happiness is the sole or chief good in life

histronic - .deliberately affected or self-consciously emotional; overly dramatic, in behavior or speech; an actor

Leslie Howard (1893 – 1943) - an English stage and film actor, director, and producer. Among his best-known roles was Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind (1939) and roles in Of Human Bondage (1934), The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), The Petrified Forest (1936), Pygmalion (1938), "Pimpernel" Smith (1941) and The First of the Few (1942).

Howard's World War II activities included acting and film-making. He was active in anti-Nazi propaganda and reputedly part of Allied Intelligence, His reputed involvement started conspiracy theories when he was killed in an airplane shot down over the Bay of Biscay France, in 1943

Hymns Ancient and Modern - is a hymnal in common use within the Church of England.


iconoclast - one who engages in destruction of religious symbols or, by extension, established dogma or conventions.

innocuous - harmless; not likely to give offense or to arouse strong feelings or hostility; inoffensive; insipid

importunate - making repeated or annoying requests or demands; causing annoyance or trouble

insipid - inoffensive, harmless

interdict – (Roman Catholic Church) the exclusion of a person or all persons in a particular place from certain sacraments and other benefits, although not from Communion


Henry Reymond Fitzwalter "Harry" Keating (2011) - an English crime fiction writer mostnotable for his series of novels featuring Inspector Ghote of the Bombay CID.

Krafft-Ebing, Baron Richard von (1840-1902) - German psychiatrist noted for his work Psychopathia Sexualis (1886), a collection of case studies of sexual deviance.


Lacrimae rerum - Latin for "tears of things." It derives from Book I, of the Aeneid (ca. 29-19 BC) written by Roman poet Virgil (70-19 BC). Some recent quotations have included rerum lacrimae sunt or sunt lacrimae rerum meaning "there are tears of (or for) things."

Lemon curd - Lemon curd is a British teatime favorite. This sweet, yet tart, velvety spread is heavenly on freshly baked scones, muffins, and tea breads.

precarious - depending on the will or pleasure of another; dubious circumstances or uncertain developments


marram grass - any of several beach grasses (genus Ammophila and especially A. arenaria)

moue - a pouting grimace.


Lord Horatio Nelson (1758-1805) - a British sea captain later admiral. Nelson was blind having been wounded in battle. Victorious in numerous sea battles, Nelson was killed during the Battle of Trafalgar, his greatest victory.

nonplus (nonplussed) - a state of utter perplexity.


obsequious - full of or exhibiting servile compliance; fawning.

ordinands - a candidate for ordination to the priesthood, Holy Orders

ornithology - a branch of zoology dealing with birds

Oxfam - an international confederation of 17 organizations working in approximately 90 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and injustice around the world.


pedantic - narrowly, stodgily, and often ostentatiously learned; unimaginative, pedestrian

peritonitis - a bacterial or fungal infection of the peritoneum, a silk-like membrane that lines the inner abdominalwall and covers the organs within the abdomen.

Perspex - also known as Lucite or 'acrylic glass' is a transparent thermoplastic, often used as a light or shatter-resistant alternative to glass.

pinafore - a sleeveless usually low-necked garment fastened in the back and worn as an apron or dress

plim - to swell, as grain or wood with water.

plimsoll shoe, plimsoll or plimsole (British) - is a type of athletic shoe with a canvas upper and rubber sole developed as beachwear in the 1830s by the Liverpool Rubber Company.In the UK plimsolls were compulsory in schools' physical education lessons.

police rank (British) - Most police ranks in the United Kingdom are relative standard with some exceptions for the Metropolitan Police Force and the London Police Force.

From lowest to highest:rank:

Police Constable, Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent, Chief Superintendent.

For the City of London, the higher ranks (from lower to higher) include:

Commander, Assistant Commissioner, and (highest) Commissioner.

For the Metropolitan Police these ranking are augmented as follows:

Commander, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, and (highest) Commissioner.

Pont Street - is a fashionable street in Knightsbridge and Belgravia, central London, England, not far from the Knightsbridge department store Harrods.

portmanteau - a large travelling case made of stiff leather, esp one hinged at the back so as to open out into two compartments

prevaricate - to stray from or evade the truth; equivocate

propinquity - proximity; nearness kinship; similarity in nature.

puerile - of or pertaining to a child or to childhood; clildish; immature

PWR - is the abbreviation for the Pressurized Water Reactor. These reactors were originally designed for military ship applications, then by the Westinghouse Nuclear Power Division for commercial applications. The first commercial PWR plant in the U.S. operated for Duquesne Light until 1982.


rasher - a thin slice (or portion of slices) of bacon or ham broiled or fried.

remittance man - a man living abroad on money sent from home, esp in the days of the British Empire

reticence - the quality or state of being reticent : reserved, restraint

rhododendron – a flowering shrub; often found in forested areas


sacerdotal - of or relating to priests or a priesthood

salacious - relating to sex in a way that is excessive or offensive; arousing or appealing to sexual desire or imagination ; lascivious; lecherous; lustful

salubrious - beneficial to the health of body or mind

sanguine - cheerfully optimistic, hopeful, or confident: a sanguine disposition; sanguine expectations. Also, can be used to describe a color: reddish; blood-red; red; ruddy: a sanguine complexion.

scintilla - a minute particle; spark; trace: not a scintilla of remorse.

sedulously - diligent in application or attention; persevering; assiduous; persistently or carefully maintained

self-abnegation - self-denial or self-sacrifice

sobriquet - a name or phrase that describes the character of someone or something; a nickname

Spotted dick is a pudding popular in Britain, containing dried fruit (usually currants or raisins) commonly served with custard. Spotted refers to the dried fruit (which resemble spots) and dick may be a contraction or corruption of the word pudding (from the last syllable).

subservience - a subservient or subordinate place or function; obsequious servility

subterfuge - the use of tricks especially to hide, avoid, or get something; deception by artifice or stratagem in order to conceal, escape, or evade

supervene - to happen unexpectedly in a way that interrupts, stops, or greatly changes an existing situation

surreptitious - done in a secret way; done, made, or acquired by stealth; clandestine; acting or doing something clandestinely; stealthy

syncopate - (in Grammar) To shorten (a word) by syncope.;Music To modify (rhythm) by syncopation.


taciturn - tending to be quiet; not speaking frequently; disinclined to talk

The Three Mile Island accident was a partial nuclear meltdown which occurred in one of the two Three Mile Island nuclear reactors located near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (1979). It was the worst accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history.

Timor mortis conturbat me i(Latin phrase) commonly found in late medieval poetry, translating to "fear of death disturbs me". The phrase comes from a responsory of the Catholic Office of the Dead:

Peccantem me quotidie, et non poenitentem, timor mortis conturbat me. Quia in inferno nulla est redemptio,

miserere mei, Deus, et salva me.

"Sinning daily, and not repenting, the fear of death disturbs me. Because there is no redemption in Hell,

have mercy on me, O God, and save me."

torch - chiefly British use for “flashlight”

translucence – the quality of permitting light to pass through but diffusing it so that persons, objects, observed through it are not clearly visible.

treacle - a blend of molasses, sugar, and corn syrup; often used as color modifier: treacle-brown;

something annoyingly over-sentimental

truculent - easily annoyed or angered and likely to argue

Tyburn was a village in the county of Middlesex close to the current location of Marble Arch in present-day London.

It took its name from the 'boundary stream', a tributary of the River Thames.

The name was synonymous with capital punishment for many years, having been the principal place for execution of London criminals, convicted traitors, and religious martyrs.


ubiquitous: existing or being everywhere; constantly encountered: widespread

untrammelled - having no hindrance or impediment to free action; without restraint


venial - not serious forgivable, pardonable; meriting no particular censure or notice; excusable

verisimilitude -The quality of appearing to be true or real.

vicariously experienced or felt by watching, hearing about, or reading about another's doings rather than doing something oneself

Voile is a soft, sheer fabric, usually made of 100% cotton or cotton blends. The word comes from French word for veil.


warren - an overcrowded area or dwelling

Wells-next-the-Sea, known locally simply as Wells, is a seaport situated on the North Norfolk coast in England.

whist drive - a social gathering where whist (a card game) is played; the winners of each card hand move tables and commence play with the losers of the previous hand

Whitsunday is the name used in the UK for the Christian feast of Pentecost, the seventh Sunday after Easter, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Christ's disciples. In England it is aligned with the Beltane feast, which originated from the pagan celebration of the summer solstice.

Andrew Norman Wilson (born 1950) is an English writer and newspaper columnist, known for his critical biographies, novels, works of popular history and religious views. His book on Leo Tolstoy won the Whitbread Award for best biography of 1988.

Wood Street is a street in the City of London. Wood Street is the location of the headquarters of the City of London Police. There is a tower on a traffic island in the middle of the street, which is all that remains of the church of St Albans.

Church of St. Peter & Paul, Salle, Norfolk

Interior of the Church of St. Peter & Paul Salle. Visited in the novel by the Inspector.
Interior of the Church of St. Peter & Paul Salle. Visited in the novel by the Inspector. | Source

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      3 years ago

      Another encouraging video Dale. I do love it when a plan comes totgheer.I think you're right about Capitalism. I can't see it failing completely, more likely that it will adapt and (hopefully) take on more ballsy government intervention. It's a solid first step from the government that we've been hearing. As long as manufacturers don't just use it to put up prices and make a32k more profit. I hope it includes some small print to encourage manufacturers to keep prices accessible. Also this won't actually happen til 2011 after the next election! But I'll cross my fingers anyway.The SMMT made a good point in the link you posted. We need more (green) charging points around the UK to promote the making of EVs. I know we all discussed this already, but I still think charging stations or perhaps charging points in some form could be a solid concept. If for example we had coin-operated green charging posts in the car parks at existing major motorway service stations, you would be servicing the people who would really need and use them. These drivers are often on longer journeys and need extended battery ranges. They also commonly stop for a rest/coffee/meal and so would have time to charge. Also, couldn't these posts be used for laptops, mobile phones or GPS devices? I know most car journeys are short and battery ranges are getting longer, but until they exceed petrol car ranges and come with domestic docking/charging stations that you just drive into (rather than going through the easily forgettable palava of getting out a reel and plugging it into your kitchen socket before leading it down the garden, over the gate etc) I still think public charging points will always be required on some scale.


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