My A-Z of Vintage Crime Fiction reaches the letter J today and I have selected the late, great crime fiction doyenne, P D James.
I chose P D James because when I first started my vintage crime fiction blog I spoke with my neighbour over the fence about it one afternoon and it turned out that she is a huge crime fiction fan, was recommending authors to me that I had only come across because of researching for the blog like Ngaio Marsh, but told me that her absolute favourite author of all time is P D James. So I went and read An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and started collecting any PD James novels I could find whilst out searching. I have a list in the notebook I carry with me with the lists of books I am looking for purely aimed at finding all the PD James books!
An Unsuitable Job for a Woman was written in the 1970’s and features a female private detective, Cordelia Gray, as the central protagonist. Cordelia Gray was a partner in a private detective agency when her partner died. With the future of the business uncertain and bills to pay she takes on the next job that is offered to her, looking into the death of a bright young man. Cordelia is young and perhaps naive but tenacious and brave. She follows the clues to satisfactory ending. I understood where my neighbour was coming from, here was a great story which was well written. It reminded me a lot of J K Rowlings Cormoran Strike novels.
Cordelia isn’t James’ most famous character though and it is her Adam Dalgliesh novels that are most often quoted as her best known novels.
- Cover Her Face (1962)
- A Mind to Murder (1963)
- Unnatural Causes (1967)
- Shroud for a Nightingale (1971)
- The Black Tower (1975)
- Death of an Expert Witness (1977)
- A Taste for Death (1986)
- Devices and Desires (1989)
- Original Sin (1994)
- A Certain Justice (1997)
- Death in Holy Orders (2001)
- The Murder Room (2003)
- The Lighthouse (2005)
- The Private Patient (2008)
Phyllis worked in government departments for most of her career and worked hard at getting the police stuff right. Though she didn’t only write crime and you may have come across her in other genres, certainly I’ve read The Children of Men as I love dystopian fiction. I’ve also had Death Comes to Pemberley recommending to me many times, the sequel to Pride and Prejudice.
PD James was made a Peer in the House of Lords in 1991 and became Baroness James of Holland Park. She died in 2014 aged 94.
PD James is definitely an author I want to spend more time reading. Her stories are sound and she doesn’t add crass dramatic events for attention as a lot of modern crime fiction appears to do. And if she can get the police stuff right then what’s not to like!