By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

Women’s Work

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, by P.D. James, is the kind of mystery novel that takes some time to unravel.  This story of a young female private investigator, who is often told that her career choice is not quite proper, is well-paced and full of British restraint.  James’ beautifully written descriptions of both people and places bring the English landscape and people of the 1970’s to life.

Cordelia Gray is a young woman who has no family and few friends.  Her boss and landlord, Bernie Pryde, is a failed police detective who operates a barely viable private detective agency.  Cordelia becomes his partner, and later, after Bernie’s death, the sole owner of Pryde’s Detective Agency.  On the verge of closing the agency, Cordelia is hired by a famous conservationist to determine the reason for his son Mark’s suicide.

Cordelia travels to Cambridge to begin her work and encounters Mark’s family, friends and employers.  As the plot unfolds, Cordelia begins to question whether Mark  committed suicide after all.  Cordelia is aware that she has become emotionally involved in the case and that she is still a novice at her chosen profession.  She often repeats to herself  Bernie’s lessons about detecting, which were taken from his former “Super,”  Adam Dalgliesh.  Cordelia’s lack of experience does not inhibit her investigation; despite a difficult client, uncooperative friends of the deceased, and attempts to frighten her away from the scene of the crime, she doggedly pursues the truth.  The secrets that Cordelia uncovers lead to a surprising resolution to the case.

This is the first of the Cordelia Gray mysteries by James.  The mystery author is also well-known for her Inspector Dalgliesh series, the most recent of which is The Private Patient.  Readers who enjoy a well-written, cleverly plotted series, or the work of John Le Carré or  Dennis Lehane, may want to try one of P.D. James’ fine mystery novels. 

The Rogers Mystery Lovers book group recently discussed An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.  The quality of the writing and the depth of the description made this a real favorite with the group.  The Rogers Mystery Lovers book group meets monthly and is open to new members.  Our next meeting is January 15, 2011, when we will be discussing The Alienist. For more information or to sign up for the book group,  visit the Reference Desk on the lower level of the library.


2 Responses to “Women’s Work”

  1. Hi Terry – What a pleasant surprise to discover this book. Although written over thirty years ago, it hangs together so well. But then, isn’t that the way with most well-written prose? Thanks for listing it.


  2. I am glad you enjoyed this post! P.D. James is one of my favorite mystery writers.

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