Monday, September 1, 2014

Favorite Author: P. D. James

P. D. James was an English novelist, best known for her mystery series featuring policeman and poet Adam Dalgliesh. Those I've read are all set in some kind of closed society -- an adaptation of the "closed room" mystery. She also has two mysteries starring Cordelia Gray, stand-alone novels, and non-fiction books.

She passed away in 2014, at age 94, still writing books and serving as a Life Peer in the House of Lords.

I've now read 12 of James's books. Unusual for me, all but one with my ears. The audiobook editions are particularly good and readily available from my library.

Those I have read are in red; those currently on my TBR shelf are in blue.


Cover Her Face (1962) (country house)

A Mind to Murder (1963) (private mental hospital)

Unnatural Causes (1967) (writers' colony)

Shroud for a Nightingale (1971) (nursing school)

The Black Tower (1975) (reviewed here) (adult care home)

Death of an Expert Witness (1977) (forensic lab)

A Taste for Death (1986) (parish church)

Devices and Desires (1989) (community with a nuclear power plant)

Original Sin (1994) (publishing house)

A Certain Justice (1997) (inns of court)

Death in Holy Orders (2001)

The Murder Room (2003)

The Lighthouse (2005)

The Private Patient (2008)


An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (1972)

The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982)


Innocent Blood (1980)

The Children of Men (1992)

Death Comes to Pemberley (2011)


The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories (2016)


The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 (1971), with Thomas A. Critchley

Time to Be in Earnest: A Fragment of Autobiography (1999)

Talking About Detective Fiction (2009)

Updated on January 7, 2019.


  1. Thanks for the info on this author. I've read a couple of her books and enjoyed them. Happy reading!

  2. Thanks Sharon. My library has a lot of these available for instant download, so I hope to read a lot of them -- read them with my ears, that is.

  3. I have never heard of him till now, but I just added all the books my library has of his to my TBR list! Thanks!

  4. Wait! Wait! Were the first two any GOOD? And where are we on the Peter Wimsey - John Rebus continuum?

  5. ruthhill74: Him is a her -- I should have specified, but I couldn't find a public domain picture. Oops! But my library has a lot of her books too. That's what got me started.

    Michael5000: Yes, the first two were good. A little plodding on the plot -- exactly who was where when leads to who did what -- but with a wry undertone that made me want to keep reading. The first two were like 1961/62 or so, so what would that be? 2/3 of the way or so on the Wimsey/Rebus continuum?

    I only recently started the Wimsey books -- only finished one so far. And I only just yesterday got a couple of Rebus audiobooks (not in order) from the library. I tried watching the Rebus series on DVD, but confess that I could not for the life of me understand what they were saying.

  6. Hmm, I wasn't thinking about chronology so much as the continuum from droll drawing-room detectivery to grim, squalid, the-world-is-going-to-hell-but-for-some-reason-we-must-hold-out-against-these-savage-crimes detectivery. Unless you are implying that that shift has progressed at a regular rate over time?

  7. I've been in love with Adam Dalgleish for years. P.D. James is one of my best loved authors and I can't imagine the world without her so I'm happy she's still working at such an advanced age. Her characters are her forte, so I don't mind a little dragging in the plot.

  8. Michael500: I was kind of thinking of a regular rate of change over time, but now that I read your description of the Rebus series, I'd say the P. D. James books are only about 1/3 of the way along that continuum. The early James, at least, still have the British post-war, stiff-upper-lip, solve-it-all-in-the-drawing-room feel, but with a bit of an edge to them.

    Rural View: I definitely liked the first two and am looking forward to more.

  9. Very well, I'll give her a try. She's nicely represented on library CDs, so that's good.

  10. Hi Gilion,

    Being a Brit, I was brought up on P.D.James books in my teenage years.

    I haven't read any for a while now and the only one I have finished since starting up Fiction Books, is 'The Children Of Men', which was very eerie. I really must get a review up for it one of these days, as I did make notes at the time of reading.

    Her characters are many and varied and almost all have made it to the small screen, as television adaptations, although of course everyone fell in love with 'Adam Dalgliesh'!

    Thanks for the lovely feature about one of the 'Grand Dames' of mystery writing.


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