5 Authors Like P. D. James (10 Detective Book Recommendations)

Phyllis Dorothy James, who wrote as P. D. James, is an English novelist best known for her detective series starring fictional police commander Adam Dalgliesh.

James published her first novel in 1962, although she’d been writing since the 1950s, and went on to create some of the best-loved detective novels in the world.

5 Authors Like P. D. James (10 Detective Book Recommendations)

P. D. James’ masterpiece is the 14 novels that form the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries.

Published between 1962 and 2008, the books follow the police commander/poet as he navigates solving crimes against a background of British bureaucracy.

The Dalgliesh novels have been adapted for television and radio.

During her lifetime, P. D. James was made OBE and named a life peer. She passed away in 2014, leaving behind a legacy of high-quality crime writing and legions of loyal fans.

P. D. James exemplified a new style of crime writing, bringing realism to the mysteries of Golden Age crime. 

If you love the enticing realism and complex plots of P. D. James detective novels, then you’ll love the works of similar authors such as Ruth Rendell, Dorothy L Sayers, and Elizabeth George.

Read this guide to discover the best books to read after P. D. James.

Books By P. D. James

Cover Her Face: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery (Adam Dalgliesh Mysteries Book 1)

P. D. James wrote fiction, non-fiction, series, and standalone novels, but she’s best known for the Adam Dalgliesh series.

Her first Dalgliesh novel, Cover Her Face, was published in 1962, and she continued to explore the character until her death.

With Cover Her Face, P. D. James established herself as a master of suspense fiction.

She played with the formula of Golden Age crime writing, adding touches of realism that inspired numerous writers to follow in her footsteps.

In a P. D. James novel, the setting is almost as important a character as the character’s themselves.

Many of her novels took place in closed-off communities where isolation is impossible to avoid.

In The Black Tower, the mystery occurs in a nursing home on a quiet stretch of the Dorset coastline.

P. D. James imbibed her novels with powerful ruminations on morality and humanity.

Even the side characters were fleshed out and real, which you can see in novels such as Shroud for a Nightingale, and Death in Holy Orders.

Unlike the Golden Age writers, P. D. James didn’t let the plot overwhelm the characters. Instead, the two were closely linked.  

Beyond the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries, P. D. James explored similar themes of morality and mystery.

The Children of Men, a standalone novel, takes place in an England with mass infertility. With underlying themes of theology, this novel offers pointed criticisms of modern life. 

Authors Like P. D. James

Ruth Rendell

No More Dying Then (Inspector Wexford Book 6)

Ruth Rendell is often seen as the biggest rival to P. D. James, although the two were close in real life.

Both women were towering figures in the world of British crime writing, with books that explored the psychology of crime, rather than simply the mechanics of a murder.

If you love P. D. James, then you have to add Ruth Rendell to your bookshelf. You’ll have a lot to explore!

The author was prolific and wrote more than 20 novels for her Inspector Wexford series alone. 

P. D. James fans should start with No More Dying Then. Tracking the case of two kidnapped children, the novel is chilling in its depiction of human emotion.

Or explore Inspector Wexford from the beginning with From Doon with Death

A Judgement in Stone is also a good choice. A standalone novel, it offers a deep exploration of characters in a thrilling plot.


  • The Inspector Wexford series offers standalone mysteries with a connecting central figure — perfect for new and old Rendell readers.
  • Rendell focuses on character motivations and the psychological aspect of crime. 


  • Some Rendell novels can feel dated.

Themes: The psychology behind crime, chance and coincidence, obsession.

Dorothy L. Sayers

The Nine Tailors (The Lord Peter Wimsey Mysteries Book 11)

Dorothy L. Sayers was considered a leader of Golden Age crime fiction.

Born in England, she studied classical and modern languages, before starting a successful career in writing. She’s best known for the Lord Peter Wimsey series.

The Nine Tailors is widely regarded as Sayers’s finest work.

A Lord Peter Wimsey novel, it focuses on a group of bell-ringers in the Lincolnshire Fens and features an unusual cause of death.

For fans of clever plotting, The Nine Tailors still presents plenty of intrigues.

An earlier Lord Peter Wimsey mystery, Strong Poison is a mystery novel about a mystery writer.

When Harriet Vane’s fiance dies in a manner eerily similar to one of her books, she’s the prime suspect.

With Strong Poison, Sayers pokes fun at the genre conventions that James would later subvert.


  • The intricate plotting of Sayers ensures her books remain intriguing for new readers.
  • Set after World War I, the psychological impact of the war plays a role in some of her novels.


  • The Lord Peter Wimsey character is fun, but his perfection can get frustrating.

Themes: Faith, gender, human compulsion.

Elizabeth George

A Great Deliverance (Inspector Lynley Book 1)

Born Susan Elizabeth George, Elizabeth George is an American mystery author best known for her works set in Great Britain.

She has written at least 21 books in the popular Inspector Lynley Mysteries series, which follow the cases of the eponymous detective.

The first novel in the Inspector Lynley series, A Great Deliverance is an excellent introduction to the author.

As with James, George makes the setting a key figure in the story, creating an immersive scene that is echoed in the complex plot. 

A Suitable Vengeance is the fourth book in the Inspector Lynley series.

Placing Lynley at the heart of the investigation, the novel closely explores human motivation and compulsion.

For fans of P. D. James, A Suitable Vengeance offers similar musings on the motivations of criminals. 


  • Rich settings add depth to the mysteries that take place in the Inspector Lynley novels.
  • Well-drawn side characters create a fleshed-out world that you can get stuck into.


  • It’s best to read the Inspector Lynley mysteries in order, which is quite a commitment.

Themes: Passion, societal issues, moral dilemmas.

Deborah Crombie

A Share in Death (Duncan Kincaid / Gemma James Book 1)

Deborah Crombie is an American author who uses atmospheric English settings as the backdrop for her detective novels.

The author of the popular Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James series, fans of P. D. James will enjoy the character-driven stories of Crombie.

A Share in Death is the first novel in the series and a fantastic introduction to the works of Crombie.

The clever plot follows Duncan Kincaid as his vacation is ruined by a body in the hot tub.

Although it sounds gruesome in places, the sharp characters are the most compelling piece of the puzzle.

Set in the same universe, A Bitter Feast joins Kincaid as yet another vacation is disturbed by a murder.

Again, the layered characters create an intriguing plot, and an isolated setting builds suspense.


  • The Kincaid/James series uses character-driven storytelling that explores the complexity of human motivation.
  • Crombie evokes a sense of place masterfully.


  • The early Kincaid/James books lack the polish and complexity of her later works. 

Themes: Character-driven mysteries, the psychology behind crime.

Agatha Christie

And Then There Were None

It seems almost impossible to discuss authors like P. D. James and not mention Agatha Christie.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest crime novelists, her works transcended the genre and had a direct influence on later authors such as James. 

Where to start with Agatha Christie?

And Then There Were None is perhaps the best introduction for new readers, tracking 10 people each implicated in a murder, who slowly start dying.

Despite being over 80 years old, the skillful plot keeps you guessing. 


  • One of the greatest detective writers of all time, the mysteries at the heart of Christie’s books are still puzzling.


  • The focus is on plot and mystery, so the characters often take a backseat.

Final Thoughts

P. D. James brought a fresh approach to crime writing.

Inspired by the intricate plotting of the Golden Age detective writers, she added rich layers of characterization to carefully constructed plots.

Instead of just covering how the crime was committed, James focused on why a crime might be committed, beyond simple monetary motivation.

Her worlds are introspective and thoughtful, with moral quandaries and human conscience.

This new style of crime writing inspired many to follow in the footsteps of P. D. James.

If you’ve enjoyed her works, you might want to try some crime writers who came after, such as Deborah Cromie and Elizabeth George. 

Alternatively, check out the writers who came before P. D. James.

Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers lack the character complexities of James, but the incredible plotting ensures their work holds up for modern readers. 

Of course, if you want to read an author like P. D. James, you must try Ruth Rendell.

Often mentioned together, these two English authors revolutionized the world of crime writing (and were good friends).

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type Of Books Does P. D. James Write?

P. D. James primarily wrote detective fiction novels, although she also experimented with dystopian fiction and non-fiction.

Her murder mysteries are character-driven, with tight plotting and evocative settings.

What Authors Are Like P. D. James?

Ruth Rendell and P. D. James are often mentioned in the same breath, and contemporary authors such as Elizabeth George and Deborah Cromie follow in their style.

YouTube video
Anna Davis