Credit: Shutterstock/PD James

What the detective story is about is not murder, but the restoration of order

Best known for her murder mysteries featuring police commander Adam Dalgliesh, PD James is among the UK's most celebrated crime writers.

Unable to attend university because her old-fashioned father did not believe in education for women, she moved to London after leaving school aged 16, and after war work, joined the civil service.

James, whose initials stood for Phyllis Dorothy, became her family’s main breadwinner when her husband, a doctor, returned from the war with a serious psychiatric disorder. It wasn’t until she was aged 40 that she began writing her first book, getting up early and staying up late, to fit her writing around her day job.

The finished manuscript, Cover her Face was published in 1962 – her first Dalgliesh mystery. James’ day jobs, first as a NHS administrator and later with the forensic science service, provide useful inspiration for her books, many of which have been adapted for TV and film

James kept up her day job until 1979, by which time she’d become established as one of literature’s reigning Queens of Crime. Continuing writing, she was awarded honours and fellowships by many institutes, served as governor of the BBC and, in 1991, was created a life peer, Baroness James of Holland Park.

Her final book was inspired by Jane Austen and was adapted for TV. In Death Comes to Pemberley, the characters from Pride and Prejudice become embroiled in a murder mystery which begins six years after Austen’s Regency-era novel left off.