Adam Dalgliesh

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Adam Dalgliesh is a fictional character who has been the protagonist of fourteen mystery novels by P. D. James. Dalgliesh first appeared in James's 1962 novel Cover Her Face and has appeared in a number of subsequent novels.


Dalgliesh is introduced in Cover Her Face, as a Detective Chief-Inspector and 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 early novels he drives a Cooper Bristol, and 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 called Adam.[1]

Rank and Cars[edit]

Cover Her Face(1962)Detective Chief Inspector
A Mind to Murder(1963)SuperintendentCooper Bristol3rd Reprint of First Book
Unnatural Causes(1967)SuperintendentCooper Bristol2nd Book Finished
Shroud for a Nightingale(1971)Chief superintendent
The Black Tower(1975)Commander [2]Cooper Bristol, Jensen Healey [2]
Death of an Expert Witness(1977)Commander
A Taste for Death(1986)CommanderJaguar XJS [3]
Devices and Desires(1989)CommanderJaguar
Original Sin(1994)CommanderJaguar
A Certain Justice(1997)CommanderJaguar
Death in Holy Orders(2001)CommanderJaguar
The Murder Room(2003)Commander
The Lighthouse(2005)Commander
The Private Patient(2008)CommanderJaguar

Recurring characters[edit]


Detective Sergeant Martin is Dalgliesh's partner in Cover Her Face and A Mind to Murder. In Shroud for a Nightingale he partners with Detective Sergeant Masterson. Detective Chief Inspector Massingham, moody and arrogant, is Dalgliesh's first permanent partner. Detective Inspector Kate Miskin 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).

Detective Inspector Daniel Aaron replaces Massingham when Massingham leaves Scotland Yard to succeed his late father in the House of Lords. Aaron is presumably suspended after the events of Original Sin; Detective Inspector Piers Tarrant is his replacement. When Tarrant is then transferred to Special Branch, Detective Sergeant 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[edit]

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.[4] Ackroyd's connections in the London establishment are often an asset to Dalgliesh.

Deborah Riscoe 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 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[edit]

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. The television adaptations have not always been faithful to the novel they dramatise, partly because they are out of chronological order.

Robin Ellis played Inspector Dalgliesh on BBC Radio 4 in Cover Her Face and Devices and Desires dramatized by Neville Teller. Richard Derrington took over the role of Inspector Dalgliesh in A Taste for Death and The Private Patient.


  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 - P.D. James - Google Boeken. 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.