Book Review: Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales

Sleep No More: Six Murderous Tales by P. D. James

Book review by Jim Scott

I implore you join the throngs who love the work of this British grand-dame of mystery writers. Called by many the “queen of crime,” and others “the doyenne of detective novelists,” James left a legacy of over a dozen, priceless mystery novels and short stories.  She received the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award and the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for Literature.  She was awarded the Order of the British Empire and was created life peer in the House of Lords as Baroness of Holland Park.

            I have selected Sleep No More (2017), a delicious collection of her short stories to induce interest in and further exploration of this thoughtful and meticulous writer’s work.   

            Should you move along to her mystery novels, you will discover “detective story” told as penetrating analysis of men, women and society, dissecting social privilege, politics, the nature and expression of romance, beauty, the fine arts, and religion.  There, her literary protagonists are Scotland Yard police commander Adam Dalgliesh – a Jaguar-driving inspector and poet; and Cordelia Gray, private investigator and owner of Pryde Detective Agency in London.  

            James subtly undergirds her work with the use of irony and control of structure.  This touch is evident throughout her detective masterpieces, Death Comes to Pemberly (2011). Beware,, for as in all of James’s work, murder (often grisly, never delicate) is the focus, and always within a larger conversation marked with intelligence, manners and meaning.

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