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Adam Dalgliesh

adam dalgliesh, adam dalgliesh series in order
Adam Dalgliesh pronounced "dal-gleash" is a fictional character who has been the protagonist of fourteen mystery novels by P D James; the first being James's 1962 novel Cover Her Face He also appears in the two novels featuring James' other detective, Cordelia Gray


  • 1 Character
  • 2 Novels
  • 3 Recurring characters
    • 31 Partners
    • 32 Relatives, friends, and romances
  • 4 Media adaptations
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links


In the first novel, Dalgliesh is a Detective Chief Inspector He eventually reaches the rank of Commander in the Metropolitan Police Service at New Scotland Yard in London He is an intensely cerebral and private person He writes poetry, a fact about which his colleagues are fond of reminding him Several volumes of his poetry have been published Dalgliesh lives in a flat above the Thames at Queenhithe in the City of London In the earlier novels he drives a Cooper Bristol, later a Jaguar He was described as being "tall, dark and handsome" by some women, alluding to Mr Darcy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

His father was the rector of a Norfolk country parish His sole family relation was his aunt, Jane Dalgliesh, whom he held in high esteem After her death, Dalgliesh inherits, among other bequests, a converted windmill located on the Norfolk coast In his lengthy career, he has been quite astute and successful and now heads a squad of CID officers working on only the most sensitive cases

Dalgliesh is a widower He lost his wife in childbirth 13 years before A Mind to Murder, and was reluctant to commit himself ever since His relationship with Deborah Riscoe ended because of this During his time at St Anselm's in Suffolk, he meets Cambridge lecturer Emma Lavenham and later asks her to marry him The wedding takes place at the end of The Private Patient, published in 2008

Dalgliesh is a late example of the gentleman detective, a staple of British detective fiction A number of parallels may be drawn between Dalgliesh and another contemporary fictional detective, Inspector Morse

DCI Dalgliesh was named in honor of the author's English teacher at Cambridge High School; years later she learnt that by mere chance, Miss Dalgliesh's father had in fact been named Adam


Novel Published Rank Car Poems Order of TV Adaptation Order of Radio Adaptation
Cover Her Face 1962 Detective Chief Inspector Third TV Adaptation Anglia, 1985 First Radio Adaptation BBC, 1993
A Mind to Murder 1963 Superintendent Cooper Bristol 3rd reprint of first book Eighth TV Adaptation Anglia, 1995 NA
Unnatural Causes 1967 Superintendent Cooper Bristol 2nd book finished Seventh TV Adaptation Anglia, 1993 NA
Shroud for a Nightingale 1971 Chief superintendent Second TV Adaptation Anglia, 1984 NA
The Black Tower 1975 Commander Cooper Bristol, Jensen Healey Fourth TV Adaptation Anglia, 1985 NA
Death of an Expert Witness 1977 Commander First TV Adaptation Anglia, 1983 NA
A Taste for Death 1986 Commander Jaguar XJS Fifth TV Adaptation Anglia, 1988 Fourth Radio Adaptation BBC, 2008
Devices and Desires 1989 Commander Jaguar Sixth TV Adaptation Anglia, 1991 Second Radio Adaptation BBC, 1998
Original Sin 1994 Commander Jaguar Ninth TV Adaptation Anglia, 1997 NA
A Certain Justice 1997 Commander Jaguar Tenth TV Adaptation Anglia, 1998 Third Radio Adaptation BBC, 2005
Death in Holy Orders 2001 Commander Jaguar Eleventh TV Adaptation BBC, 2003 NA
The Murder Room 2003 Commander Twelfth TV Adaptation BBC, 2005 NA
The Lighthouse 2005 Commander NA NA
The Private Patient 2008 Commander Jaguar NA Fifth Radio Adaptation BBC, 2010

Recurring characters


Detective Sergeant Martin is Dalgliesh's partner in Cover Her Face and A Mind to Murder Martin is played in the ITV adaptation by Robert Pugh In Shroud for a Nightingale he partners with Detective Sergeant Masterson Dalgliesh's first permanent partner was the moody and arrogant Detective Chief Inspector Massingham played by John Vine Detective Inspector Kate Miskin played for ITV by Penny Downie, Lizzy McInnery and Sarah Winman, and for the BBC by Tilly Blackwood serves with Dalgliesh and Massingham in Scotland Yard's Special Investigation Squad In The Lighthouse, Miskin takes over running the investigation when Dalgliesh contracts SARS She is still a member of Dalgliesh's team in The Private Patient 2008

DI Daniel Aron Tim Dutton replaces Massingham when Massingham leaves Scotland Yard to succeed his late father in the House of Lords Aron is presumably suspended after the events of Original Sin; DI Piers Tarrant William Beck is his replacement When Tarrant is then transferred to Special Branch, DS Francis Benton-Smith replaces him Miskin has a short romantic relationship with Piers Tarrant after he leaves the Squad Benton-Smith, the ambitious and good-looking son of English and Indian parents, is at first resented by Kate Miskin, but they develop a good working relationship

Relatives, friends, and romances

Jane Dalgliesh is Adam Dalgiesh's aunt and his sole living relative until her death prior to Devices and Desires Introduced in Unnatural Causes, she is described as a very private and cerebral person, not unlike Dalgliesh himself She is fond of bird watching and possesses a cottage in Suffolk which she later sells and buys a converted windmill in Norfolk, which Dalgliesh inherits upon her death

Conrad Ackroyd is one of Dalgliesh's personal friends He is a member of the Cadaver Club, a private club of crime enthusiasts featured in Unnatural Causes as well as other novels He is editor and publisher of The Paternoster Review Ackroyd's connections in the London establishment are often an asset to Dalgliesh

Deborah Riscoe played by Mel Martin is one of Dalgliesh's romantic interests; they first meet when a murder shakes Riscoe's home in Cover Her Face; their relationship develops over the course of A Mind to Murder However, because of Dalgliesh's reluctance to commit, Riscoe ends their relationship via a letter at the conclusion of Unnatural Causes, accepting a transfer to the United States of America

Emma Lavenham played by Janie Dee is a lecturer in literature at Cambridge University She and Dalgleish meet in Death in Holy Orders, develop a relationship during The Murder Room, and, following Dalgliesh's convalescence from SARS on Combe Island in The Lighthouse, decide to marry, which they do at the end of The Private Patient

Dalgliesh makes several small appearances in the two novels in the Cordelia Gray series, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman and The Skull Beneath the Skin Cordelia Gray is a private detective and runs a detective agency in Kingsly Street Dalgliesh is asked to look into the death of Sir Ronald Callender in Cambridge and acquits Gray of any charges Gray and Dalgliesh stayed in contact, as evidenced by the congratulations card Dalgliesh receives from Gray while convalescing after a successful operation at the beginning of The Black Tower Gossiping Conrad Ackroyd also remarks on Dalgliesh's being seen dining out with Cordelia in A Taste for Death

Media adaptations

All of James's novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh up to and including The Murder Room have been adapted for television, beginning with Death of an Expert Witness in 1983 The first ten novels in the order shown below were adapted by Anglia Television for transmission on the ITV network and starred Roy Marsden as Dalgliesh The BBC took over the series in 2003, and Martin Shaw played the role in Death in Holy Orders and The Murder Room Opinion amongst fans of both portrayals of Dalgliesh generally agrees that Roy Marsden's portrayal of Dalgliesh emphasises the cold-fish, aloof and peremptory side of his character, and is more faithful to James's novels, whereas Martin Shaw's portrayal adds a more likeable human warmth to these character traits The television adaptations have not always been faithful to the novel they dramatise, partly because they are out of chronological order

  • Death of an Expert Witness: Dalgliesh leads the hunt for an elusive strangler in The Fens
  • Shroud for a Nightingale: Dalgliesh becomes entangled in a deadly murder hunt inside a training home for nurses
  • Cover Her Face: Dalgliesh follows a young girl and a trail of death to a beautiful country home
  • The Black Tower: A reckless move in the drugs trade turns into a dice with death for Dalgliesh
  • A Taste for Death: Dalgliesh sets up the Sensitive Crimes Squad and faces an immediate challenge
  • Devices and Desires: Holidaying in Norfolk, Dalgliesh is caught up in a series of murders when he discovers a body
  • Unnatural Causes: Dalgliesh is drawn into a macabre murder case during his investigations into a currency scam
  • A Mind to Murder: Dalgliesh is called in following the grotesque murder of a middle-aged woman
  • Original Sin: Dalgliesh discovers a body whilst investigating a series of alarming hate mail attacks on a poet
  • A Certain Justice: Dalgliesh becomes involved in the death of criminal barrister Venetia Aldridge
  • Death in Holy Orders: Dalgliesh investigates an apparent suicide at Saint Anselm's seminary, which is run by an old friend, Father Martin Petrie; the coincidence of another death leads to a murder investigation; Dalgliesh meets Emma Lavenham and they subsequently begin a relationship
  • The Murder Room: At the beginning Dalgliesh investigates the murder in the grounds of the Dupayne Museum, of Neville Dupayne; at the end of a mad dash to the train station, he proposes to Emma Lavenham

Five of the Dalgliesh novels have been dramatised by Neville Teller for BBC Radio 4 Robin Ellis played Dalgliesh in Cover Her Face 1993; miscredited as Robert Ellis by the BBC announcer and Devices and Desires 1998 Phillip Franks played the role in A Certain Justice 2005 Dalgliesh was then played by Richard Derrington in A Taste for Death 2008 and The Private Patient 2010


  1. ^ James, P D 1999 Time to Be in Earnest London: Faber and Faber p 48 ISBN 057120094X 
  2. ^ a b The Black Tower: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery - PD James - Google Boeken Booksgooglecom Retrieved 2013-09-04 
  3. ^ James, P D 1986 A Taste for Death, London: Faber & Faber, p 405
  4. ^ James, P D 1986 A Taste for Death, London: Faber & Faber
  5. ^ "Discussion on Britmovie forum" 

Further reading

  • Hubly, Erlene "Adam Dalgliesh: Byronic Hero" Clues: A Journal of Detection 3: 40-46
  • Kotker, Joan G "PD James's Adam Dalgliesh Series" in In the Beginning: First Novels in Mystery Series 1995: 139+
  • Sharkey, Jo Ann Theology in suspense: how the detective fiction of PD James provokes theological thought PhD Dissertation, University of St Andrews, 2011 online

External links

  • Adam Dalgliesh on IMDb
  • Adam Dalgliesh on BBC
  • Roy Marsden on IMDB
  • Martin Shaw on IMDB

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