Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 125

Gidez, Richard B. P. D. James. New York: Twayne, 1986.

James, Caryn. “Children of Differing Visions.” The New York Times, December 28, 2006, p. E1.

James, P. D. “A Conversation with . . . P. D. James.” Interview by Lewis Burke Frumkes. Writer 111 (June, 1998): 17-20.

James, P....

(The entire section contains 855 words.)

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Gidez, Richard B. P. D. James. New York: Twayne, 1986.

James, Caryn. “Children of Differing Visions.” The New York Times, December 28, 2006, p. E1.

James, P. D. “A Conversation with . . . P. D. James.” Interview by Lewis Burke Frumkes. Writer 111 (June, 1998): 17-20.

James, P. D. “P. D. James and the Mystery of Iniquity.” Interview by Ralph Wood. Modern Age 44 (Fall, 2002): 350-358.

Maslin, Janet. “A Rich Menu of Murder, Garnished with a Small Sprig of Shame.” The New York Times, December 1, 2005, p. E1.

Maxfield, James F. “The Unfinished Detective: The Work of P. D. James.” Critique 28 (Summer, 1987): 211-222.

Wood, Ralph C. “Murder in the Vicarage.” First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life 167 (November, 2006): 38-41.

Zaleski, Jeff, and Peter Cannon. “Death in Holy Orders.” Publishers Weekly 248 (March 19, 2001): 79.

Literary Precedents

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 495

James's great talent is in her portrayal of characters. According to one critic: "The people in her books are anything but paper figures; all but the most peripheral are three-dimensional, their backgrounds finely drawn, and their actions the inevitable result of the interaction between their personalities and the circumstances that confront them." The same critic notes that James has continued to improve her characterization with each succeeding novel. Although the criticism was written before this novel, it was indeed a good prediction, for the characters in A Taste for Death are even more complex and believable than those in previous novels. Adam Dalgliesh evolves with each novel, developing the maturity that comes with age and experience.

The mystery aficionado seeks a plausible plot that is not obvious until the very end and yet provides adequate clues to clarify events when the mystery is revealed. James moves quickly from one character or situation to another, holding the reader's interest, often giving false clues, but never false information.

One also finds a sense of place in James's novels. She describes her locales well, and the homes fit perfectly into the London landscape. Her interest in architecture leads her to describe buildings in detail: St. Matthew's with "the green copper cupola of the soaring campanile of Arthur Blomfield's extraordinary Romanesque basilica"; the Berowne home, 62 Campden Hill Square, "an urban oasis of greenery and Georgian elegance . . . one of the rare examples of Sir John Soane's domestic architecture ... its neo-classical facade in Portland stone and brick dominated the terrace and the whole square, inalienably a part of them, yet looking almost arrogantly unique."

James's natural descriptions are also arresting. For example, in Holland Park "the beds had been richly patterned with the summer display of geraniums, fuschias, heliotropes and begonias. But now the time had come for the autumn stripping. Half the beds were already bare — expanses of soft loam littered with broken stems, petals like blobs of blood and a scatter of drying leaves."

James writes in the tradition of Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and Margery Allingham. Siebenheller remarks that although these authors are all female, English, and mystery writers, James departs from that tradition. "Her concern is with reality, not make believe. The worlds she creates are peopled with varied and interesting characters whose actions spring from believable motivations and whose reactions are true to their complex personalities. And her victims, as she has often remarked, are truly dead."

James claims Jane Austen as her favorite author. Her novels reflect the order, sanity, and gentility of Austen's world. Critics have compared her to Dickens and Balzac in her ability to create characters. In A Taste for Death, young Darren has overtones of Dickens's David Copperfield and Victor Hugo's Gavroche, and James's use of popular language is accurate and true to life. Although she is normally more at home with the proper language of the English middle class, James shows great insight into other levels of society.

Adaptations

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Last Updated on May 11, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 68

A Taste for Death was presented on the television series "Mystery," which has featured many of James's works. The interpretation was faithful to the novel, although it did not follow the same chronology. The novel begins with the murder, and the television performance, done in five parts, showed some events which were later uncovered during the investigation before presenting the murder. It is done convincingly with excellent actors.

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