P. D. James’s most famous and enduring character will always be Scotland Yard Detective Adam Dalgliesh.
The star of fourteen of her novels, he is one of the great troubled and brooding crime protagonists, but rather than being a recovering alcoholic or divorcee, he is a gentleman and a published poet. Although he famously drives an E-type Jaguar and often attracts the attention of different female characters across the novels, he is circumspect and reserved, a contained, thoughtful man, scarred by the loss of his wife and unborn child before the action of the first novel, 1962’s Cover Her Face.
What is also abundantly clear through the course of the series, is P. D. James’s own growing affection for her protagonist, particularly in the extremely poignant late novels The Lighthouse and The Private Patient.
Dalgliesh was first seen on the TV screen played by Roy Marsden in the 1980s and then again by Martin Shaw in the early 2000s. He is now to be found in Channel 5’s acclaimed new series, Dalgliesh, played by Bertie Carvel, who impressively brings the right kind of quiet resilience and charisma to the role.
But if it’s the books you want to go back to, I recommend her imperious run of novels in the 1960s and 1970s, A Mind to Murder, Unnatural Causes, Shroud for a Nightingale and The Black Tower, any of which would provide a great introduction to this most memorable and influential of detectives. And from there, once hooked, you’ll want to read on to see where Adam Dalgliesh’s story ends.