A Gift of Short Stories from P.D. James

By Miller, Sarah Bryan | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 18, 2016 | Go to article overview

A Gift of Short Stories from P.D. James


Miller, Sarah Bryan, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The late British detective novelist P.D. James was renowned as much for the elegance of her writing as for her plotting. That doesn't obviate the bloody nature of her subject matter; James was clear about the many tolls taken by murder, but her intelligence and erudition shine forth on every page. Her books won her acclaim and many awards, and a life peerage as Baroness James of Holland Park.

They were written, at least to start, primarily because she needed money: Her husband returned from World War II with mental problems, and she had two daughters to support. Starting in the 1950s, James arose early to write before going to her day job as a hospital administrator.

James published her first novel, "Cover Her Face," in 1962, introducing one of the more enduring detectives of literature, the poet-policeman Adam Dalgleish. Dalgleish was the leading character in 14 novels in all and a supporting character in two others.

Dalgleish is back in two of the four short stories that make up "The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories." In one, he appears as a young sergeant who by dint of observation and his wits solves a case he describes as "pure Agatha Christie." In the other, he's the inspector we know from the novels, undertaking a cold case to assuage the conscience of his godfather, who fears that a bequest might consist of tainted money.

The title story introduces a young widow who is invited to visit a grandmother and cousin for Christmas. She doesn't really know them, thanks to a family feud, but accepts, both to avoid loneliness and to learn something of her relatives. …

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