The late Phyllis Dorothy James was a prolific novelist who was constantly honing her craft right up to her death at age 94 years. Her love of words and description shines through her many novels. She was the recipient of many honors, including the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature, and in 1991, she was honoured with the title of Baroness James of Holland Park. In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame.
P.D. James was the author of twenty novels, fourteen of which featured her staid and contemplative detective, Adam Dalgliesh (pronounced “dal-gleash”). When we are first introduced to him, he is a Detective Chief Inspector. Over the course of the 14 novels he eventually reaches the rank of Commander in the Metropolitan Police Service at New Scotland Yard in London. He is a very private person. His police colleagues tease him about the fact that, in addition to being a policeman, he is also a published poet. Dalgliesh lives in a flat above the Thames at Queenhithe in London.
Dalgliesh is a widower. He lost his wife in childbirth and has been reluctant to commit himself ever since. His father was a Norfolk clergyman. His only living relation is his aunt, Jane Dalgliesh, whom he holds in high esteem.
P.D. James named her lead character Dalgliesh in honour of her high school English teacher. In her writing, she liked to expound on the ‘puzzle’. Like her friend and collegue Ruth Rendell, she liked to explore the ‘why’ of the mystery, devoting most of her efforts to the motive behind the crime.
The Dalgliesh novels have been successful adapted for television featuring Roy Marsden in the title role.
The fourteen mysteries featuring Dalgliesh are:
- Cover her face
- A mind to murder
- Unnatural causes
- Shroud for a nightingale
- The black tower
- Death of an expert witness
- A taste for death
- Devices and desires
- Original sin
- A certain justice
- Death in holy orders
- The murder room
- The lighthouse
- The private patient
Though some might say these books are a bit verbose, I believe that anyone who enjoys a literary/psychological mystery, with an intriguing and compelling protagonist will love the Dalgliesh mysteries!
P.D. James wrote a non-fiction book in which she discusses her favourite genre. I am lucky enough to own a hardcover copy of “Talking about detective fiction“