Barry Maitland began publishing only after a successful career as an architect and academic in both England and Australia. Even in his earliest novels he displays a mature insight into character and motivation that is rare in crime fiction. His background has also enabled him to incorporate into his fiction a breadth of learning in a number of fields, especially art, architecture, and urban history. Although Maitland’s novels have been commercially successful and critically well received, they have not as yet achieved the reputation that they merit. Like the works of the British master of the police procedural, P. D. James, Maitland’s novels are intricately plotted, thematically sophisticated, and symbolically suggestive.
Maitland’s chief contribution to the police procedural is his imaginative and often symbolic depiction of crime settings. Broadly speaking, all of his fictions are set within the city of London or its suburban environs. Having spent many years growing up in the city, Maitland is intimately aware of its many layers of history but is also acutely aware of the changes that successive waves of immigration and social change have brought. This awareness is deftly woven into the fabric of all his novels.