Thursday, February 24, 2011

Barbara Berowne turned her remarkable violet-blue eyes on Dalgliesh and he was for a second disconcerted. After the first fleeting glimmer of curiosity the glance was deadened, almost lifeless, as if he were looking into coloured contact lenses. Perhaps after a lifetime of seeing the effect of her gaze she no longer needed to animate it with any expression other than a casual interest. He had known that she was beautiful, how he couldn't remember, probably it was an accumulation of casually dropped comments when her husband was talked of, of press photographs. But it wasn't a beauty to stir his heart. It would have given him pleasure to sit unnoticed and look at her as he might at a picture, to note with dispassionate admiration the delicate, perfectly curved arch above the slanting eyes, at the curve of the upper lip, the shadowed hollow between the cheekbone and the jaw, the rise of the slim throat. He could look and admire and leave without regret. For him this blond loveliness was too exquisite, too orthodox, too perfect. What he loved was a more individual and eccentric beauty, vulnerability allied to intelligence. He doubted whether Barbara Berowne was intelligent, but he didn't underrate her. Nothing in police work was more dangerous than to make superficial judgements about human beings. But he wondered briefly whether here now was a woman for whom a man would kill. He had known three such women in his career; none would have been described as beautiful.
P.D. James, A Taste for Death

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