By Daneet Steffens
Updated April 27, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

A rash of sudden deaths breaks out at a remote, cliff-top theological college in England? Sounds like a job for Commander Adam Dalgliesh, policeman and poet, who happens to have some holiday time coming up, and is amenable to using it for a spot of sleuthing. Turns out he’s also succumbing to nostalgia: He spent a few summers as a teen at St. Anselm’s (some of that time with a seductive girl named Sadie), so the college and surrounding area are familiar to him. James’ characters in Death in Holy Orders — priests, students, incestuous lovers, nearly all with dark secrets to hide — are so deliciously sketched out that the fun here is far more in the reading of the novel, and in the pleasure of a new installment of Dalgliesh’s detection from the 80-year-old empress of the British mystery, than in the ultimate denouement of the whodunit.