I well remember the delight of her early novels that featured Cordela Grey, a character who might have been one of one’s friends. Could there be any Western reader who likes mystery stories and doesn’t know her work? (No doubt a naive question.)
From the NY Times:
Ms. James was one of those rare authors whose work stood up to the inevitable and usually invidious comparisons with classic authors of the detective genre, like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. A consummate stylist, she accumulated numerous awards for the 13 crime novels produced during a writing career spanning a half century. Seven of her mysteries were adapted for the public television program “Mystery!” and were broadcast in Britain and the United States….
Many critics and many of her peers have said that by virtue of the complexity of her plots, the psychological density of her characters and the moral context in which she viewed criminal violence, Ms. James even surpassed her classic models and elevated the literary status of the modern detective novel. She is often cited, in particular, for the cerebral depth and emotional sensibilities of Adam Dalgliesh, the introspective Scotland Yard detective and published poet who functions as the hero of virtually all of her novels.
… Her readers found this brooding, morally conflicted character profoundly romantic. Even Ms. James thought he was sexy. “I could never fall in love with a man who was handsome but stupid,” she said. Still, Commander Dalgliesh (pronounced DAWL-gleesh) remained a self-contained, even aloof figure. “There’s a splinter of ice in his character,” she said.
In “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman” (1972), Ms. James introduced Cordelia Gray, a young private investigator whose professional competence and independent spirit put her in the vanguard of an emerging generation of female sleuths. These included Liza Cody’s Anna Lee in Britain, and Sara Paretsky’s V. I. Warshawski and Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone in the United States.