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P. D. James & Adam Dalgliesh Mystery Titles
Phyllis Dorothy James, Baroness James of Holland Park, OBE, FRSA, FRSL (1920 – 2014), better known as P. D. James, was an English crime writer. She rose to fame for her series of detective novels starring police commander and poet Adam Dalgliesh.
James was born in Oxford, the daughter of Sidney James, a tax inspector, and educated at the British School in Ludlow and Cambridge High School for Girls. She had to leave school at the age of sixteen to work because her family did not have much money and her father did not believe in higher education for girls. She worked in a tax office for three years and later found a job as an assistant stage manager for a theatre group. In 1941, she married Ernest Connor Bantry White, an army doctor. They had two daughters, Clare and Jane.
When White returned from World War II, he was experiencing mental illness, and James was forced to provide for the whole family until her husband’s death in 1964. With her husband in a psychiatric institution and their daughters being mostly cared for by his parents, James studied hospital administration and from 1949 to 1968 worked for a hospital board in London. She began writing in the mid-1950s. Her first novel, ‘Cover Her Face’, featuring the investigator and poet Adam Dalgliesh of New Scotland Yard, named after a teacher at Cambridge High School, was published in 1962. Many of James’s mystery novels take place against the backdrop of UK bureaucracies, such as the criminal justice system and the National Health Service, in which she worked for decades starting in the 1940s. Two years after the publication of ‘Cover Her Face’, James’s husband died, and she took a position as a civil servant within the criminal section of the Home Office. She worked in government service until her retirement in 1979.
In 1991, James was created a life peer as Baroness James of Holland Park and sat in the House of Lords as a Conservative. She was an Anglican and a lay patron of the Prayer Book Society. Her 2001 work, ‘Death in Holy Orders’, displays her familiarity with the inner workings of church hierarchy. Her later novels were often set in a community closed in some way, such as a publishing house or barristers’ chambers, a theological college, an island or a private clinic. ‘Talking About Detective Fiction’ was published in 2009. Over her writing career, James also wrote many essays and short stories for periodicals and anthologies, which have yet to be collected. She revealed in 2011 that ‘The Private Patient’ was the final Dalgliesh novel.
In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame at the inaugural ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards.
In August 2014, James was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to ‘The Guardian’ opposing Scottish independence, during the run up to the referendum, and she was also a long time advocate of the campaign for women to be able to inherit noble titles. She died at her home in Oxford in November 2014, aged 94, survived by her two daughters, Clare and Jane, five grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Note: There are currently problems with P.D. James titles availability on audible.com. Links will be repaired when the situation is corrected. Thanks.
Update: January 2016 – now only problems with The Murder Room and The Lighthouse audible editions, which are still unavailable.
Adam Dalgliesh Novels
Note: Enter Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh
Sally Jupp was a sly and sensuous young woman who used her body and her brains to make her way up the social ladder. Now she lies across her bed with dark bruises from a strangler’s fingers forever marring her lily-white throat. Someone has decided that the wages of sin should be death…and it is up to Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh to find who that someone is.
Cover Her Face is P.D. James’ delightful debut novel, an ingeniously plotted mystery that immediately placed her among the masters of suspense.
Note: A Deadly Asylum
The second book to feature Scotland Yard investigator Adam Dalgliesh, A Mind To Murder is a “superbly satisfying mystery” (Chicago Daily News) from bestselling author P.D. James.
On the surface, the Steen Psychiatric Clinic is one of the most reputable institutions in London. But when the administrative head is found dead with a chisel in her heart, that distinguished facade begins to crumble as the truth emerges. Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard is called in to investigate and quickly finds himself caught in a whirlwind of psychiatry, drugs, and deceit. Now he must analyze the deep-seated anxieties and thwarted desires of patients and staff alike to determine which of their unresolved conflicts has resulted in murder and stop a cunning killer before the next blow.
Note: The Author of Murder
Maurice Seton was a famous mystery writer – but no murder he ever invented was more grisly than his own death. When his corpse is found in a drifting dinghy with both hands chopped off at the wrists, ripples of horror spread among his bizarre circle of friends. Now it’s up to brilliant Scotland Yard inspector, Adam Dalgliesh, and his extraordinary aunt to uncover the shocking truth behind the writer’s death sentence, before the plot takes another murderous turn.
Unnatural Causes inspired Cosmopolitan to fervently hope, “if we’re lucky, there will always be an England and there will always be a P.D. James.”
Note: Murder at Nightingale House
Hailed as “mystery at its best” by The New York Times.
The young women of Nightingale House are there to learn to nurse and comfort the suffering. But when one of the students plays patient in a demonstration of nursing skills, she is horribly, brutally killed. Another student dies equally mysteriously, and it is up to Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard to unmask a killer who has decided to prescribe murder as the cure for all ills.
Good Best Review, but not my opinion. This is one of my personal favourites!
Note: A friendly visit turns macabre!
Scotland Yard Inspector Adam Dalgliesh races to solve a twisted murder in bestselling author P.D. James’ classic mystery The Black Tower, hailed as “splendid, macabre” by the London Sunday Telegraph and “a masterpiece,” by the London Sunday Times.
Just recovered from a grave illness, Commander Adam Dalgliesh receives a call for advice from the elderly chaplain at Toynton Grange, an isolated nursing home on the coast of England. But by the time Dalgliesh arrives, Father Baddeley has mysteriously died, as has one of his patients.
When the bodies begin to pile up, Dalgliesh once again finds his own life at risk as he determines to get to the truth behind his friend’s death and unmask the terrible evil at the heart of Toynton Grange.
Another of P.D. James very best!
Note: A deadly laboratory!
Another page-turning installment in the bestselling Adam Dalgliesh mystery series from P.D. James, “the reigning mistress of murder” (Time)
When a brilliant forensic scientist is found murdered in his own laboratory, Scotland Yard is called to the scene. The victim, a well-respected, authoritative member of the scientific community, was unpleasant to and greatly disliked by those who worked closest to him, leaving detectives with a wealth of suspects and murderous motives. P.D. James’ beloved detective Adam Dalgliesh is the one man who can sort through the lies, chasing down the truth to the book’s powerful climax.
P.D. James deftly weaves another tale of intrigue in Death Of an Expert Witness. Engaging and thrilling, she takes readers along with her troubled detective on a case rife with psychological thrills.
Note: A question of class?
When the quiet Little Vestry of St. Matthew’s Church becomes the blood-soaked scene of a double murder, Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh faces an intriguing conundrum: How did an upper-crust Minister come to lie, slit throat to slit throat, next to a neighborhood derelict of the lowest order? Challenged with the investigation of a crime that appears to have endless motives, Dalgliesh explores the sinister web spun around a half-burnt diary and a violet-eyed widow who is pregnant and full of malice – all the while hoping to fill the gap of logic that joined these two disparate men in bright red death.
Another of the better Dalgliesh novels!
Note: Death on the beach!
Commander Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard has just published a new book of poems and has taken a brief respite from publicity on the remote Larksoken headland on the Norfolk coast in a converted windmill left to him by his aunt. But he cannot so easily escape murder. A psychotic strangler of young women is at large in Norfolk, and getting nearer to Larksoken with every killing. And when Dalgliesh discovers the murdered body of the Acting Administrative Officer on the beach, he finds himself caught up in the passions and dangerous secrets of the headland community and in one of the most baffling murder cases of his career.
James at her best!
Note: A bizarre death!
Commander Adam Dalgliesh and his team are confronted with a puzzle of impenetrable complexity. A murder has taken place in the offices of the Peverell Press, a venerable London publishing house located in a dramatic mock-Venetian palace on the Thames. The victim is Gerard Etienne, the brilliant but ruthless new managing director, who had vowed to restore the firm’s fortunes. Etienne was clearly a man with enemies—a discarded mistress, a rejected and humiliated author, and rebellious colleagues, one of who apparently killed herself a short time earlier. Yet Etienne’s death, which occurred under bizarre circumstances, is for Dalgliesh only the beginning of the mystery, as he desperately pursues the search for a killer prepared to strike and strike again.
Note: Murder in the Middle Temple
When distinguished criminal lawyer Venetia Aldridge defends a young man for the brutal murder of his mother, she views the case as simply another opportunity to demonstrate her brilliance in the courtroom. But within weeks of the trial Aldridge is found dead at her desk, a bloodstained barrister’s wig on her head. And as Commander Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard attempts to make sense of events, the murders continue, inexorably spiraling into fresh complexities of horror.
Note: An ordered murder!
On the East Anglian seacoast, a small theological college hangs precariously on an eroding shoreline and an equally precarious future. When the body of a student is found buried in the sand, the boy’s influential father demands that Scotland Yard investigate. Enter Adam Dalgliesh, a detective who loves poetry, a man who has known loss and discovery. The son of a parson, and having spent many happy boyhood summers at the school, Dalgliesh is the perfect candidate to look for the truth in this remote, rarified community of the faithful – and the frightened. And when one death leads to another, Dalgliesh finds himself steeped in a world of good and evil, of stifled passions and hidden pasts, where someone has cause not just to commit one crime but to begin an unholy order of murder.
“Gracefully sculpted prose and [a] superbly executed mystery . . . Death in Holy Orders is among [James’s] most remarkable and accomplished Dalgliesh novels.”
–The Philadelphia Inquirer
Another of the better James novels!
Note: A murder in time!
Commander Adam Dalgliesh returns to find himself enmeshed in a terrifying story of passion and mystery – and in love.
The Dupayne, a small private museum in London devoted to the interwar years 1919 – 1939, is in turmoil. As its trustees argue over whether it should be closed, one of them is brutally and mysteriously murdered. Yet even as Commander Dalgliesh and his team proceed with their investigation, a second corpse is discovered. Someone in the Dupayne is prepared to kill and kill again. Still more sinister, the murders appear to echo the notorious crimes of the past featured in one of the museum’s galleries: the Murder Room.
The case is fraught with danger and complications from the outset, but for Dalgliesh the complications are unexpectedly profound. His new relationship with Emma Lavenham – introduced in the last Dalgliesh novel, Death in Holy Orders – is at a critical stage. Now, as he moves closer and closer to a solution to the puzzle, he finds himself driven further and further from commitment to the woman he loves.
Generally well received, but not one of her best!
Note: A shattered peace!
A secure and secluded retreat for the rich and powerful becomes the setting for an unsettling series of murders. Combe Island off the Cornish coast is a restful haven for the elite. But when one of its distinguished visitors is found hanging from the island’s famous lighthouse in what appears to have been a murder, the peace is shattered. Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to handle the sensitive case, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. He is uncertain about his future with his girlfriend Emma Lavenham; his principle detective Kate Miskin is going through an emotional crisis; and the ambitious Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is not happy about having a female boss. After a second brutal killing, the whole investigation is jeopardized, and Dalgliesh is faced with a danger even more insidious than murder.
Note: No cure for vanity!
When the notorious investigative journalist, Rhoda Gradwyn, books into Mr. Chandler-Powell’s private clinic in Dorset for the removal of a disfiguring, long-standing facial scar, she has every prospect of a successful operation by a distinguished surgeon, a week’s peaceful convalescence in one of Dorset’s most beautiful manor houses and the beginning of a new life. She will never leave Cheverell Manor alive. When Adam Dalgliesh and his team are called in to investigate the murder – and a second death occurs – even more complicated problems than the question of innocence or guilt arise.
Adam Dalgliesh DVD Collections
ITV Series: Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh
Available in DVD
Note: The best collection!
Death of an Expert Witness (1983)
Shroud for a Nightingale (1984)
Cover Her Face (1985)
The Black Tower (1985)
A Taste for Death (1988)
Devices and Desires (1991)
Unnatural Causes (1993)
A Mind to Murder (1995)
Original Sin (1997)
ITV Series – starring Roy Marsden as Dalgliesh
Available in DVD. Not currently available on Amazon.ca
Starring Roy Marsden and Penny Downie, directed by Ross Devenish.
BBC Series – starring Martin Shaw as Dalgliesh
Available in DVD
Detective Adam Dalgliesh looks into the death of a young ordinand who died under mysterious circumstances. Stars: Martin Shaw, Robert Hardy, Alan Howard
Available in DVD
Adam Dalgliesh looks into the connection between the grisly exhibits at the Dupayne family museum and the murder of adopted son Neville. Stars: Martin Shaw, Janie Dee, Samantha Bond.