English mystery writer best known for her series of novels featuring fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard P.D. James died on November 27, 2014 at the age of 94.
Dubbed the “Queen of Crime,” James went on to write 13 more Dalgliesh murder mysteries.
Many of them were set in enclosed communities, illuminating the tensions and violence that can erupt amongst tightly knit groups of people.
Shroud for a Nightingale, published in 1971, is set at a nursing school, and Original Sin (1994) at a small publishing house in London; Death in Holy Orders (2001) probes the motives behind a killing at a theological college, and the final Dalgliesh mystery, The Private Patient (published in 2008), unfolds at a private plastic surgery clinic in an English manor house.
Born on August 3, 1920, in Oxford, England, to Sidney Victor and Dorothy May Amelia (Hone) James.
She was the oldest of three children. Her father worked as a tax officer for the Inland Revenue department.
Her mother, who encouraged the children to read at an early age, suffered so severely from mental illness that she was eventually institutionalized.
In 1941, at the age of 21, P.D. James married medical student Ernest Connor Bantry White.
The couple had two daughters, Clara (born in 1942) and Jane (born in 1944). James’s husband served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Second World War.
However, after the war he was so incapacitated by schizophrenia that he was unable to work and required frequent hospitalization until his death in 1964.
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.
As guest editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in December 2009, James conducted an interview with the Director General of the BBC, Mark Thompson, in which she seemed critical of some of his decisions.
Regular Today presenter Evan Davis commented that “She shouldn’t be guest editing; she should be permanently presenting the programme.”
In 2008, she was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame at the inaugural ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards.
To date P. D. James has published fourteen books and many short stories.
She was awarded the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1983 and was made a baroness in 1991.
She also served on the governor’s board of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC).
She continues to have loyal fans who enjoy both a good mystery and a well-written novel.