Novelist and life peer P. D. James, since 1991 Baroness James of Holland Park, died peacefully at her Oxford, England home Thursday at 94. It’s fitting that she should leave us on Thanksgiving Day. Readers and friends of civilization everywhere have reason to be thankful for her long, productive, and well-examined life. And thankful for the literary riches she leaves behind.
Lady James’ chief claim to our attention and appreciation is her 18 elegant crime novels that have attracted millions of readers across the world from Cover Her Face in 1962 through Death Comes to Pemberly in 2011. Yes, I chose that adjective carefully. Mrs. James proved that crime fiction can be elegant. Also intelligent, insightful, and humorous. (Please excuse this American for using the civilian form of her name, titles in the U.K. having been greatly debased now that every superannuated rocker has Sir before his name.) Her stories not only make good reading, but good viewing as well. Eight of her novels have been made into television dramas.