The mysteries of PD James

By Tracey Arial

PD James, or Phyllis Dorothy James White, is brilliant at writing complex mysteries that read more like novels than straight who-done-it.

More than that, though, she’s an honest woman who has a strong sense of fair play. Yet she still has no compunction in using only part of her own name to deceive sexist people.

I love that her official website includes hints for writing. This wonderful woman not only assumes we’ll all try to copy her eventually, but she seems to believe we can.

Her British sensibility seems to shine in every point she makes, especially the paragraph in which she describes her working habits:

“I get up early, make tea and settle down to about two hours writing. I have no special room, require only a comfortable chair, table or desk at the right height, and sufficient space for my dictionary and research material. I do, however, need to be completely alone. When my secretary arrives I dictate to her what I have written. She puts it on the computer and prints it out for editing and correcting.”

Her best character by far is Commander Adam Dalgliesh, a police officer poet who seems to fall in love with everyone around him. I don’t like any of her other mysteries.

Her books include:

  • The Private Patient, November 2009 
  • The Lighthouse, October 2006
  • The Children Of Men, May 2006 
  • A Taste For Death, November 2005 
  • The Murder Room, November 2004 
  • Devices And Desires, May 2004
  • Death In Holy Orders, April 2001 
  • Original Sin, January 1995
  • Skull Beneath the Skin, 1982
  • Innocent Blood, 1980
  • Death of an Expert Witness, 1977
  • The Black Tower, 1975
  • An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, 1972
  • Maul and the Pear Tree, (co-author) 1971
  • Shroud for a Nightingale, 1971
  • Unnatural Causes, 1967
  • A Mind to Murder, 1963
  • Cover Her Face, 1962

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