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Talking about Detective Fiction
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About the Author

P.D. James was awarded the OBE in 1983 and became a life peer in 1991. She has won numerous awards for crime writing including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award and The National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature

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James, who lives and breathes detective fiction, tackles her genre in this examination of British detective fiction. It is important to note this is not literary criticism in the academic sense. James will introduce readers to lesser-known detectives from the past, such as two from the 1920s: H.C. Bailey's doctor Reggie Fortune and Gladys Mitchell's psychiatrist Dame Beatrice Adela Lestrange Bradley. Because of these types of discoveries, the volume has the potential to stimulate investigations beyond the text. James includes chapters on Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown; a brief nod to Americans Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; and a discussion of four women writers: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, and Ngaio Marsh. She is not afraid to share her opinion of writers' strengths and weaknesses, especially when the focus is on Christie. VERDICT Considering James's devoted following and her highly recognizable name, there is sure to be interest amongst fans and readers of detective fiction. The writing is entertaining, approachable, and interesting, and this makes it an appealing read for a wide audience.-Stacy Russo, Chapman Univ. Libs., Orange, CA Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

One of the most widely read and respected writers of detective fiction, James (The Private Patient) explores the genre's origins (focusing primarily on Britain) and its lasting appeal. James cites Wilkie Collins's The Moonstone, published in 1868, as the first detective novel and its hero, Sergeant Cuff, as one of the first literary examples of the professional detective (modeled after a real-life Scotland Yard inspector). As for Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, James argues that their staying power has as much to do with the gloomy London atmosphere, "the enveloping miasma of mystery and terror," as with the iconic sleuth. Devoting much of her time to writers in the Golden Age of British detective fiction (essentially between the two world wars), James dissects the work of four heavyweights: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh. Though she's more appreciative of Marsh and Allingham (declaring them "novelists, not merely fabricators of ingenious puzzles"), James acknowledges not only the undeniable boost these women gave to the genre but their continuing appeal. For crime fiction fans, this master class from one of the leading practitioners of the art will be a real treat. 9 illus. (Dec.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Elegant and thoughtful ... It is PD James's longevity, as well as her serene intelligence, that makes this book especially noteworthy and enjoyable ... If you want to extend you own reading, discover new authors or clarify your thoughts, this is an excellent way to do so. -- Amanda Craig

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