P. D. JAMES – The Lighthouse. Alfred A. Knopf, hardcover. First US Edition, 2005.
I won’t dignify these comments by suggesting they in any way constitute a review. I’ve read only five pages and looked at the sixth, and that’s as far as I’m going to go. I hit a cropper on page five. What you will read below constitutes all but the first sentence of a paragraph taking up most of the middle of that page.
Commander Adam Dalgleish is in a briefing room with several other governmental officials about the investigation he is about to be put in charge of:
[…] To have the security services involved was always a complication. Dalgleish reflected that the secret service, like the monarchy, in yielding up its mystique in response to public enthusiasm for greater openness, seemed to have lost some of that half-ecclesiastical patina of authority bestowed on those who dealt in esoteric mysteries. Today its head was known by name and pictured in the press, the previous head had actually written her autobiography, and its headquarters, an eccentric, oriental-looking monument to modernity which dominated its stretch of the south bank of the Thames, seemed designed to attract rather than repel curiosity. To surrender mystique had its disadvantages; an organization came to be regarded like any other bureaucracy, staffed by the same fallible human beings and liable to the same cock-ups. But he expected no problems with the secret service. The fact that MI5 was represented at middle-grade level suggested that this single death on an offshore island was among the least of their present concerns.
I submit you that this is English, that it does make sense, but when my eyes hit this passage, all it did is make my head spin.
I did go on and take a look at page six, as Dalgleish continues to be filled in on the case and its significance. Most of the page consists of single paragraph almost twice the size of this one.
This is a hardcover copy of the first American edition that I have in hand, and in perfect condition. It must have been sent to me as a review copy, as I doubt that I would have purchased it on my own. The list price is $25.95, and it is 335 pages long, not nearly as some novels today, but long enough to get your money’s worth, you would think and perhaps you do.
I came across it yesterday while cleaning off the stairs to my upstairs study, and since I have never [truth be told] never been able to read a P. D. James novel before, I decided that selling it on Amazon would bring me in a small but tidy sum.
Wrong! The going price for hardcover editions of this book is 98 cents. And up, of course, but since Amazon takes 15% off the top and provides sellers only $2.64 for mailing the book out, I couldn’t see listing the book there at a competitive price only to lose money. (Postage alone, even without the cost of packing materials, would set me back at least $3.22.)
You do the math. Of course my copy is a First Edition, which in days past might have meant something, but not any more. Most sellers do not describe their wares on Amazon in any detail whatsoever. I suspect that the one offered at the 98 cent level may even be a Book Club edition. Obviously most buyers do not care.
I will donate this book to my local library for their next Friends of the Library sale. I thought I’d give it a trial run before I did so, but the next person who buys it is on their own.