Have you ever pondered the answer to this question: If you were stranded on a desert island for – well, a long time – which five books would you most want with you? One of mine definitely would be An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, the 1972 detective novel by P.D. James, featuring Cordelia Gray in a mystery set in and around Oxford, England. James is best-known for her Adam Dalgliesh series, and those are wonderful books as well, but I draw your attention to this particular title today because I don’t want anyone who loves exceptional British murder mysteries (exceptional because the characters, plotting and writing are all equally superb) to miss this one—39 years old, but still one of the best in the genre, in my opinion.
Cordelia has just inherited a detective agency, and its continued existence may very well depend on this first case that she tackles alone. Cordelia is highly intelligent, resourceful, wise beyond her years—and she will need all of that to uncover the truth surrounding a mysterious death, and to survive.
I re-read An Unsuitable Job for a Woman recently for probably the fifth or sixth time. I know the ending perfectly, but I still periodically enjoy the comfort and pleasure of spending a few hours with an old friend. And I just learned that its 91-year-old creator is giving us a new book next month: Death Comes to Pemberley. It does not feature Cordelia Gray, but any new book by P.D. James goes to the top of my holiday wish-list. My suggestion, however, is that if you have never read a P.D. James novel – start with either An Unsuitable Job for a Woman or the first in the Adam Dalgliesh series, Cover Her Face.
Recommended for adults and young adults