P. D. James on Detective Fiction

When I was wandering through one of the many bookstores that permeate my existence I happened upon a book by P. D. James about Detective Fiction.  I am not a fan of Ms. James's writing, but the book was intriguing to me and I thought about buying it.  However, I always have recourse first to my library and I was surprised to walk in and find it on the shelves.  It will be worth owning if it lives up to the promise of this passage.

from Talking about Detective Fiction
P. D. James

Although the detective story at its highest can also operate on the dangerous edge of things, it is differentiated both from mainstream fiction and from the generality of crime novels by a highly organised structure and recognised conventions. What we can expect is a central mysterious crime, usually murder; a closed circle of suspects, each with motive, means and opportunity for the crime; a detective, either amateur or professional, who comes in alike an avenging deity to solve it; and, by the end of the book, a solution which the reader should be able to arrive at by logical deduction from clues inserted in the novel with deceptive cunning but essential fairness.   This is the definition I have usually given when speaking about my work but, it now seems unduly restrictive and more appropriate to the so-called Golden Age between the wars than it is today. 

And she goes on to qualify the definition to indicate changes that have occurred after the Golden Age.  It seems like it will go quickly and be a nice, light appreciation of the Dectective novel as a sub-genre of the mystery.


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