To judge by the worldwide success of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie's Poirot, it is not only the Anglo-Saxons who have an appetite for mystery and mayhem. Talking about the craft of detective writing and sharing her personal thoughts and observations on one of the most popular and enduring forms of literature, P. D. James examines the challenges, achievements and potential of a genre which has fascinated her as a novelist for nearly 50 years. She explores the metamorphosis of a genre that has gripped and entertained the popular imagination like no other type of novel. Written by the author widely regarded as the queen of the detective novel, this book is sure to appeal to all aficionados of crime fiction.
©2009 P. D. James (P)2009 BBC Audio
Mystery reader (especially series) and Austen lover
For mystery lovers, especially lovers of British mysteries, "Talking About Detective Fiction" is a wonderful review of the history of the British detective novel and a discussion of the elements of a mystery as they have changed through the years. P.D. James also enumerates the "rules" of a detective novel, and talks about breaking those rules. And most fascinating to me are the passages where she discusses how she goes about writing a detective story.
Ms James's history of Brirish detective fiction begins with some Anthony Trollope stories and proceeds through Wilkie Collins and Arthur Conan Doyle, then covers the Golden Age of Mysteries, which lasted from about 1920 to the Second World War, and briefly discusses current day mysteries. Since my favorite British mysteries are those from the Golden Age, I was very happy that her primary focus was on the mysteries written in the 20s, 30s and 40s, and an entire chapter is devoted to Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham and Ngiao Marsh. In addition, I was able to pick up the names of a few authors with whom I was unfamiliar.
I have always enjoyed the writings of P.D. James, and this book is written in the clear, understandable style which she uses in her mysteries. I especially liked the instances when she used a setting or plot device from the Dalgliesh books to illustrate a point about the structure and style of mysteries.
I am also quite impressed that Ms James wrote this book in 2009, when she was 89 years old. So far, the years have not affected her wit, style or writing skill.
The narration by Diana Bishop is excellent. I feel like Ms Bishop is an old friend, having listened to her in the Miss Silver books.
I have been a longtime fan of the detective in literature & was introduced to a wonderful list of authors when I took a class on the subject in college. I wish this book had been around back then, I would've enjoyed the course even more. P.D. James knows what she's talking about here. Her insight and analysis are thoughtful & intelligent. I found it so interesting I listened to the whole book in one sitting.
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