Death of an Expert Witness

Death of an Expert Witness is an Adam Dalgliesh novel by P. D. James, published in 1977. It begins with the discovery of a murder by a young girl. However, this is not the focus of the novel, but rather is used as a method to introduce the reader to the staff of a forensic laboratory, the background of this mystery. The actual murder of Dr. Lorrimer, an experienced expert witness, is only discovered in the second section of the book. It is quickly established that only people associated with the lab would have the opportunity or the knowledge to commit the crime, which allows the detectives to focus their attention.

Death of an Expert Witness
First edition
AuthorP. D. James
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesAdam Dalgliesh #6
GenreMystery novel
PublisherFaber & Faber
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover, paperback)
Pages368 pp
Preceded byThe Black Tower 
Followed byA Taste for Death 

Plot outline

Scotland Yard's Adam Dalgliesh investigates the murder of forensic biologist Dr. Edwin Lorrimer. With too many motives and no physical evidence, Dalgliesh is left to deduce which among the small pool of suspects is the killer, who decides to claim a second victim.


The events take place in Hoggatt's Laboratory East Anglia, which is near Cambridge.


This is Adam Dalgliesh's second case with John Massingham.

Literary significance and criticism

A review in Catalogue of Crimer noted; "Despite praise by Julian Symons and others, there is less to admire in this book than in most others by this talented author. For some reason the mixture of love and lust that brings about the death of a highly disagreeable pathologist fails to attract or convince. The best thing about the book is that it brings back Supt. Dalgliesh."[1] In a 1977 book review, John Leonard of The New York Times wrote "In 'Death of an Expert Witness,' [James] does for a forensic science laboratory in East Anglia what [Dorothy] Sayers did for Oxbridge and [Ngaio] Marsh managed for the London theater world. She fairly wallows in motives technicalities, eccentricities, venom and defeat."[2]


A television version was produced for Britain's ITV network in 1983. It starred Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh, Barry Foster as Dr Howarth, Geoffrey Palmer as Dr Lorrimer, and Ray Brooks as Dr Kerrison.


  1. Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime. New York: Harper & Row. 1971, revised and enlarged edition 1989. ISBN 0-06-015796-8
  2. Leonard, John (November 15, 1977). "Books of The Times". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved April 13, 2017.
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