Review: The Victim by P.D. James

In the literary context, I love a bit of murder. Witnessing such a heinous act being planned and carried out is fascinating. So my eyes lit up when I saw a story called The Victim in a bookshop.

The story centres on a librarian planning the murder of his ex-wife’s lover. The writing is precise and cold, which brought pimples to my neck. Especially with phrases such as, “My mind fed voraciously of his death, savoured it, began systematically, and with dreadful pleasure, to plan it”.

The Victim by PD James

The planning of the murder is ingenious. The librarian plans to commit the act after a year of disturbing his victim. He sends him ominous letters written on typewriters. He follows him around and watches him. And our narrator relishes in the discomfort of his prey, and asks himself, “Was it my imagination that he seemed older, that some of the confidence had been drained out of him?”

One of the great achievements of the story is that it reads like a diary. At times it felt like I observing the librarian writing his awful thoughts into his journal. This is a compelling position to occupy as a reader.

The Victim is a master-class in suspense and exploring the darker realms of what human beings are capable of. If you want to read something compelling and disturbing, read this lovely, sick tale.

This is the first in a series of planned reviews of stories from Faber’s Faber Stories.

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