One of the most celebrated English crime writers of modern literature, author Phyllis Dorothy James, whose poet-detective Adam Dalgliesh featured in a series of bestsellers, was born on August 3, 1920.
The grand dame of mystery, who seemed like the perfect successor to the likes of Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham, started writing when she was in her 40s, and though most famed for her crime fiction, also once wrote a futuristic satire, short stories and a few non-fictions as well.
On her 99th birth anniversary, here’s looking at 5 novels she wrote that one must read.
Cover Her Face (1962):
The author’s debut novel details the investigations by detective Adam Dalgliesh into the death of a young maid who is surrounded by a family that want her gone – or dead. Notably, the title was taken from the famous play The Duchess of Malfi, which had the dialogue, “Cover her face. Mine eyes dazzle; she died young.”
Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales (2001):
The collection of six stories by the author draw the readers into the thinking, memories, machinations, dreams and desires behind murderous cause and effect. James delves into the minds of the perpetrators and tries to uncover what drove them to commit their crimes.
The Children of Men (1992):
A dystopian novel by the author not showcasing her famed detective, set in England in 2021, the novel centres on the results of mass infertility. The author showcases a UK that is steadily depopulating and focuses on a small group of resisters.
The Skull Beneath the Skin (1982):
Featuring female private detective Cordelia Gray, the novel is set in a rVictorian castle on the fictional Courcy Island and centers around actress Clarissa Lisle who is act in The Duchess of Malfi in the castle’s restored theatre. However, shortly before the performance the actress is brutally murdered, leaving Cordelia with a mystery to solve.
The Maul and the Pear Tree: The Ratcliffe Highway Murders, 1811 (1971):
A true crime book by British historian T. A. Critchley and mystery writer P. D. James about the Ratcliff Highway murders, it details two attacks on two separate families that resulted in seven fatalities, happening 12 days apart in December 1811. The crimes happened in homes located half a mile apart near the London Docklands district of Wapping.