Original Sin and The Fictional World of Archives

Original Novel Title: Original Sin

Author: P.D. James

Publisher: New York, Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994 (hardcover); Penguin Books, 1995 (paperback)

TV "Mystery" Series (WGBH Boston) Broadcast Dates on the PBS Network: January 9, 16, 23, 1997

British Police Commander Adam Dalgliesh (Roy Marsden) solves the mystery behind deaths and murders at Peverell Press. The first two deaths take place in a room next to the company archives on the top floor of the building on the Thames River which is a replica of a Venetian palace.

An elderly poet, Gabriel Dauntsey, whose book forms the title of the novel comments in part two that the firm owner was obsessed with confidentiality. The publisher never wanted to have the archives or the sitting room where the bodies were found cleaned.

There are good establishing shots of the archives in part two. The boxes appear to be in disarray but they are stored on metal shelving. A nun who is the sister of the first dead women, a suicide, reveals that her sister was the mistress of the press’ founder. The owner refused to let the nun, a former book restorer, catalog the archives. Dalgliesh found this most intriguing.

Towards the end of part two, two of the investigating officers, Detective Inspectors Kate Miskin and Daniel Aron, are looking through archival records. Daniel suggests to Kate that they go for a drink, perhaps a reaction to having spent time looking through the usual dusty records.

One of the opening scenes in part three shows Inspectors Aron and Miskin parting company after their drink at the pub. She says, "Back to the archives." Daniel smiles wryly at her and walks off.

The archives is shown again in a scene between the Daniel and Kate.

Commander Dalgliesh on the archives: "I thought the past might have helped us somehow, but it hasn't."

In another scene Dalgliesh and the poet Dauntsey next discuss the possible signficance of the archives to the investigation.

In a crucial scene in part three, Inspector Aron spills a file or box with letters and photos. He picks up one and examines a typed label pasted to the back. Next he's shown seated on the floor looking at several b photos of the same individual, a woman, with two children. They are the wife and children of the poet Dauntsey.

As Dalgliesh discovers, the past is indeed the most important part of his investigation.

  1. Adam Dalgleish information, "Mystery" Series (WGBH Boston)

CONTENTS: The Fictional World of Archives

Submitted by David Mattison, 1997.01.17. Updated 2007.03.18.