P.D. James spun crime into literature

James was behind such novels as 'Death Comes to Pemberley' and 'An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.' Monitor fiction critic Yvonne Zipp noted in a review of one of James's books that 'there are few living mystery writers more widely respected than James.'

Henny Ray Abrams/AP
P.D. James discusses her novel 'The Lighthouse' in 2005.

Readers around the world are still mourning the death last week of acclaimed mystery novelist P.D. James.

James wrote more than 20 books and was behind such novels as “The Children of Men,” “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman,” and her last work, the bestselling Jane Austen-tribute book “Death Comes to Pemberley.” Many of James’s books centered on her protagonist Adam Dalgliesh, who worked as a detective at Scotland Yard 

As noted by the The Washington Post, James did not shy away from gory scenes.

“Let those who want pleasant murders read Agatha Christie,” James is reported to have said. “Murder isn’t pleasant. It’s an ugly thing and a cruel thing, and murder in the isolated country house with the snow piled up outside just isn’t real.”

Writer Ruth Rendell praised James’ eye for detail in an interview with the BBC.

“She was wonderfully accurate in her police work,” Rendell said. “She really took great pains about it. She took great care and she got it right. She did not make mistakes, she saw to it that she didn't.”

Critics praised the quality of James’s writing and her characters. In her review of James’s book “Talking About Detective Fiction,” Monitor fiction critic Yvonne Zipp noted that “there are few living mystery writers more widely respected than James”.

Author A.S. Byatt discussed the author’s struggle to have her genre get the respect she felt it deserved. “She said crime fiction should win the Booker and tried to have it taken seriously,” Byatt said. “Phyllis was on the borderline between crime fiction and literary fiction."

“Pemberley” was James’s last book published in her lifetime, but there could be another on the way. According to the BBC, the author said last year that she was writing another novel and that she thought it was “important to write one more.”

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