Mystery Writer P.D. James Has Died At Age 94

On Thursday, prolific mystery and crime writer P.D. James died at age 94, her publisher confirmed. Best known for her detective series featuring intellectual sleuth Adam Dalgliesh, James also wrote the acclaimed novels Children of Men, and in 2011, Death Comes to Pemberley. That book, a follow up to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, was adapted into a popular miniseries that aired on PBS earlier this year.

Born in Oxford, England on August 3, 1920, James did not write her first novel until her late 30s, after becoming a wife and mother. Her husband, upon returning from war, was mentally unstable, and the family relied upon James’ income from her job as a civil service worker and the books she wrote in the early mornings before work.

James' plots were always harrowing, but one of her other hallmarks was always populating her novels with thoroughly intellectual and culturally literate characters. I love thinking about her main protagonist, Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard, who was not only a brilliant detective, but a lover of jazz, poetry, and fine cars.

Of her writing career, James told the BBC:

I am lucky to have written as many books as I have, really, and it has been a joy. With old age, it becomes very difficult. It takes longer for the inspiration to come, but the thing about being a writer is that you need to write … There will be a time to stop writing but that will probably be when I come to a stop, too.

James is survived by two daughters and leaves a legacy of 20 novels — she's put quite a stamp on the genre and literature as a whole. Her loss is being felt across the books community: