The mystery part of the book is always secondary for me. I love the culture, the commentary, the specificity behind James’ writing. One of her characters doesn’t turn on classical music while he drives; he listens to Elgar’s Serenade for Strings.
James is conversant in the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. If you know your Books, you will recognize phrases and allusions. Adam Dalgliesh is the son of an Anglican rector, who embraces the trappings of his childhood but does not hold to the faith of his father. Theological and philosophical questions are naturally raised. Death is present in every book (she is, after all, a murder mystery writer); reckoning with mortality tends to get one beyond the mundane.
And she is British. (happy sigh)
Here is a sampler from A Certain Justice.
The affair now was beginning to have some of the longueurs of marriage, but with none of marriage’s reassuring safety and comfort.
But there was in his bearing the innate dignity of a man who is at ease with his work, does it well and knows that he is valued.
What I wrote when I first discovered P.D. James