Archives: Books

Cover Her Face

From P. D. James, one of the masters of British crime fiction, comes the debut novel that introduced Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh. Set in the peaceful English countryside, Cover Her Face is a classic murder mystery.

St Cedd’s Church fête has been held in the grounds of Martingale manor house for generations. As if organising stalls, as well as presiding over luncheon, the bishop and the tea tent, were not enough for Mrs Eleanor Maxie on that mellow July afternoon, she also has to contend with the news of her son’s sudden engagement to the new parlour maid, Sally Jupp. On the following morning Martingale and the village are shocked by the discovery of Sally’s body.

Investigating the violent death at the manor house, Detective Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh becomes embroiled in the complicated passions beneath the calm surface of English country life.

In Cover Her Face, P. D. James plots a complex story of family secrets and suspicion.

Read the novel that launched her career as the world’s pre-eminent crime writer.

Cover Her Face was adapted for television in 1985, starring Roy Marsden, Phyllis Calvert and Mel Martin.

The Children of Men

P. D. James plots this atmospheric and disturbing novel in the year 2021.

The human race has become infertile, and under the despotic rule of Xan Lyppiatt, the Warden of England the old are despairing and the young cruel. Theo Faren, a cousin of the Warden, lives a solitary life in this ominous atmosphere. That is, until a chance encounter with a young woman leads him into contact with a group of dissenters. Suddenly his life is changed irrevocably, as he faces agonising choices which could affect the future of mankind.

Children of Men was adapted into a hit film in 2006. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the film starred Clive Owen, Michael Caine and Julianne Moore.

A Certain Justice

From P.D. James comes the tenth novel to feature Commander Adam Dalgliesh. A Certain Justice is a chilling murder mystery packed with forensic detail, set in the treacherous legal world of London.

Venetia Aldridge QC is a noted barrister. When she agrees to defend Garry Ashe, accused of the brutal murder of his aunt, it is one more opportunity to triumph in her distinguished career as a criminal lawyer. But just four weeks later, Miss Aldridge is found dead at her desk.

Commander Adam Dalgliesh, called in to investigate, finds motives for murder among the clients Venetia has defended, her professional colleagues, her family – even her lover. As Dalgliesh narrows the field of suspects, a second brutal murder draws them into greater complexities of intrigue and evil.

A Certain Justice was adapted for television in 1988, starring Roy Marsden, Ricci Harnett and Britta Smith.

Original Sin

The Peverell Press, a two-hundred-year-old publishing firm housed in a dramatic mock-Venetian palace on the Thames, is certainly ripe for change. But the proposals of its ruthlessly ambitious new managing director, Gerard Etienne, have made him dangerous enemies – a discarded mistress, a neglected and humiliated author, and rebellious colleagues and staff. When Gerard’s body is discovered bizarrely desecrated, there is no shortage of suspects, and Adam Dalgliesh and his team are confronted with a puzzle of extraordinary complexity and a murderer who is prepared to strike again.

P. D. James once again explores the mysterious, strong and intense emotions responsible for the unique crime of murder.

Original Sin was adapted for television in 1997, starring Roy Marsden, Ian Bannen and Cathryn Harrison.

‘An elegantly written, splendidly atmospheric and immensely satisfying mystery.’ Sunday Telegraph

A Mind to Murder

A piercing scream, shattering the evening calm, brings Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh hurrying from his literary party to the nearby Steen Psychiatric Clinic, where he discovers the body of a woman sprawled on the basement floor, a chisel thrust through her heart.

As Dalgliesh probes beneath the apparently unruffled calm of the clinic, he discovers that many an intrigue lies hidden behind the Georgian terrace’s unassuming façade. Professionally, he has never known the taste of failure. Now, for the first time, he feels unsure of his own mastery as he battles to unmask a cool killer who is proving to be his intellectual equal, and who is poised to strike again.

A Mind To Murder was adapted for television in 1995, starring Roy Marsden, Mairead Carty and Sean Scanlan.

Talking about Detective Fiction

From the birth of crime writing with Wilkie Collins and Dostoevsky, through Conan Doyle to the Golden Age of crime, with the rise of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham, P. D. James brings a lifetime of reading and writing crime fiction to bear on this personal history of the genre. There are chapters on great American crime writers – the likes of Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett. James also discusses many of her favourite famous detectives, from Sherlock Holmes to Philip Marlowe.

In Talking about Detective Fiction, James presents a incisive history of detective fiction and explores the literary techniques behind history’s best crime writing.

The Maul and the Pear Tree

In 1811, John Williams was buried with a stake in his heart. Was he the notorious East End killer or the victim of a miscarriage of justice in the bizarre and shocking Ratcliffe Highway Murders? In this vivid and gripping reconstruction, P. D. James and police historian T. A. Critchley draw on forensics, public records, newspaper clippings and hitherto unpublished sources, expertly sifting the evidence to shed new light on this infamous Wapping mystery.

The Maul and the Pear Tree is James’s only work of true crime. It uses forensics and forgotten documents to create a vivid image of early- nineteenth century London and a gripping reconstruction of the Ratcliffe Highway Murders.

Death Comes to Pemberley

The world is classic Jane Austen. The mystery is vintage P. D. James.

The year is 1803, and Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the nursery, Elizabeth’s beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live nearby, and the orderly world of Pemberley seems unassailable. But all this is threatened when, on the eve of the annual autumn ball, the guests are preparing to retire for the night and a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley’s wild woodland. As it pulls up, Lydia Wickham – Elizabeth Bennet’s younger, unreliable sister – stumbles out screaming that her husband has been murdered.

Two great literary minds – master of suspense P. D. James and literary icon Jane Austen – come together in Death Comes to Pemberley, a bestselling historical crime-fiction tribute to Pride and Prejudice. Combining a sensitive insight into the happy but threatened marriage of the Darcys and the excitement of a brilliantly crafted addictive story, James creates a delightful homage that will intrigue any Janeite.

Death Come to Pemberley was adapted as a miniseries by the BBC in 2013, starring Matthew Rhys as Darcy, Anna Maxwell Martin as Elizabeth Bennet and Jenna Coleman as Lydia Wickham.

Death in Holy Orders

When the body of a theology student is found on a desolate stretch of coast in East Anglia, his wealthy father demands that Scotland Yard should re-examine the verdict of accidental death. Commander Adam Dalgliesh agrees to pay a visit to the young man’s theological college, St Anselm’s, a place he knew as a boy, expecting no more than a nostalgic return to old haunts and a straightforward examination of the evidence. Instead, he finds himself embroiled in intrigue, secrets and mystery as the college is torn apart by a sacrilegious and horrifying murder . . .

P. D. James masterfully explores an isolated and beleaguered community coping with the evil and disruption of murder.

Death in Holy Orders was adapted for BBC television in 2003, starring Martin Shaw, Jesse Spencer and Alan Howard.

The Murder Room

Commander Adam Dalgliesh is already acquainted with the Dupayne Museum in Hampstead, with its sinister murder room commemorating notorious crimes committed in the interwar years. When he is called to investigate the killing of one of the trustees, he soon discovers that the victim was seeking to close the museum against the wishes of both the staff and the fellow trustees. Everyone, it seems, has something to gain from the crime.

When it becomes clear that the murderer is prepared to kill again, inspired by the real-life crimes from the murder room, Dalgliesh knows that to solve this case he has to get into the mind of a ruthless killer.

The investigation is complicated for Dalgliesh by his love for Emma Lavenham, but their relationship, at a sensitive stage for them both, is continually frustrated by the demands of his job. As step by step he moves closer to the murderer, is the investigation taking him further away from commitment to the woman he loves?

The Murder Room was adapted for BBC television in 2004, starring Martin Shaw, Janie Dee and Samantha Bond.