Series to savour 2 – P.D. James’s Dalgliesh mysteries

P.D. James 1920-2014 photo copyright Gareth Iwan Jones

P.D. James 1920-2014
photo copyright Gareth Iwan Jones

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.

Queenhithe Dock at low tide

Queenhithe Dock at low tide

In the earlier novels he drives a Cooper Bristol, in later novels a Jaguar. A tall and slender man, he is considered by some to be quite handsome.

Jaguar XJ-S

Jaguar XJ-S

Cooper Bristol car

Cooper Bristol car





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.

Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh

The Dalgliesh novels have been successful adapted for television featuring Roy Marsden in the title role.

The fourteen mysteries featuring Dalgliesh are:


  1. Cover her face
  2. A mind to murder
  3. Unnatural causes
  4. Shroud for a nightingale
  5. The black tower
  6. Death of an expert witness
  7. A taste for death
  8. Devices and desires
  9. Original sin
  10. A certain justice
  11. Death in holy orders
  12. The murder room
  13. The lighthouse
  14. 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 at work in earlier days photo copyright Graham Harrison

P.D. James at work in earlier days
photo copyright Graham Harrison

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

P.D. James’ obituary

P.D. James in quotes

An interview with P.D. James

My favorite photo of  P.D. James

My favorite photo of
P.D. James

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
This entry was posted in Fiction, Mystery fiction, Series order, series to savour, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Series to savour 2 – P.D. James’s Dalgliesh mysteries

  1. trevorwiltzenauthor says:

    You have such a helpful site 🙂 I am going to be coming back a lot!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. After reading her short stories, I am definitely interested in reading more. Thanks for the great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. What a lovely look behind the scenes at this great series, one of my earliest forays into crime fiction. I picked up a second hand copy of The Murder Room at the last book sale I went to as I did so enjoy the series.


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  8. I love the puzzles in Sherlock Holmes stories but not read much puzzle crime fiction outside of that, I’ll give one of these a go


  9. carhicks says:

    This series has been on my TBR list for a long time. I should get to it. Thanks for the reminder.


  10. Avonna says:

    Very nice feature!


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