I too read Asterix comic books that I've read before. The memories of reading them as a child, the familiarity of the characters and the incidents, the dialogue even. Of course, there are lots of reasons why we might want to return to a book. Reading a book again is not just reading it for a second time, it involves a reflexivity: reading your earlier reading of the book (assuming you remember reading it before or if you’ve got a review of that previous reading).
It’s by re-reading certain authors with greater clarity than I have apparently mustered, the very self-conscious act that lies behind the public use of the verb 'to re-read'. Is it related to the fact that to describe someone as well read is a bigger compliment than remarking on how someone has been to a lot of opera or surfed a lot of the internet? Do we measure intellectual merit by number of books read? Is that a good thing? (I imagine for the readers of a books blog, the answer is “Yes”). I don't know. Some people see re-reading as a light-hearted irritating tendency though not life-threatening social trope, sometimes seasoned with a few sharp comments (in some reviews) on how to deflate the braying, boastful re-reader like myself. Of course there are more specific and sophisticated ways of doing that.
The same happens when it comes to P. D. James. When you strip the storyline back to its bare bones, it's as a shock to understand how little there is to it (minimalist comes to mind), but then it's the James storytelling in some of her novels, her ability to make physical descriptions of her characters, and her profound psychological insight into her characters that are important and putting it all together allows James to weave an intricate web narrative-wise. By binging once again on P.D. James I can see right away what separates the truly gifted writer from the merely entertaining one (like Agatha Christie). James (almost) always manages to give me entertainment value while also offering me attention-getting prose that makes me really think about how the characters feel and how events in the plot might actually affect the lives of real people. That’s what distinguishes P. D. James from her Crime Fiction counterparts. Take this as an example: Octavia, one of those adult children who insist on being treated as an adult, but moves in with Mummy and tries to rule her house instead of finding her own, 'You see, the only person who’s in a state about her daughter coming home is you'. Insolent and narcissistic. Some children are difficult to love and even more difficult to like. Detestable. Will Mummy turn out to be the Mummy from hell?
Bottom-line: A gripping book from start to finish. Well, almost. I hated the ending… as far as I can recall, it was the first time Dalgliesh does not close a case successfully.