An Unsuitable Job for a Woman Critical Evaluation - Essay

P. D. James

Critical Evaluation

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

P. D. James, dubbed the queen of crime by critic Julian Symons, has contributed extensively to the mystery genre since her first novel, Cover Her Face (1962). Many critics, scholars, and fans lament, however, that James wrote only two novels featuring Cordelia Gray. Gray was one of the first female private-investigator protagonists to appear in literature, and the first British example, which makes An Unsuitable Job for a Woman the most-studied novel of James’s oeuvre.

Feminist critics in particular have paid attention to the differences between the two Gray novels and have theorized about why the series did not continue. There may certainly be other reasons, but James wrote in her autobiography that she quit writing about Gray because a British television adaptation took too many liberties with the character. Responding to reader queries and pleas, James wrote in the essay “Ought Adam to Marry Cordelia?” (1977) that the answer is no: Gray should not marry Adam Dalgliesh, another of James’s popular protagonists. James may have decided that Gray was just too much trouble.

Gray also provides an interesting subject for critics and scholars because of the ethical issues involved in the cases and because of the choices she makes. While private investigators are not above breaking the law, it is rarer to see a detective put his or her own life and liberty at stake to protect a killer. In An Unsuitable Job for a...

(The entire section is 541 words.)