A Taste for Death (James novel)

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A Taste for Death
First edition
Author P. D. James
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Adam Dalgliesh #7
Genre Crime, Mystery novel
Publisher Faber and Faber
Publication date
9 June 1986
Media type Print (Hardback, Paperback)
Pages 454 pp (hardback first edition)
ISBN 0-571-13799-7
OCLC 15018788
823/.914 19
LC Class PR6060.A467 T3 1986b
Preceded by Death of an Expert Witness
Followed by Devices and Desires

A Taste for Death is a crime novel by British writer P. D. James, seventh in the popular Commander Adam Dalgliesh series. The novel won the Silver Dagger in 1986, losing out on the Gold to Ruth Rendell's Live Flesh. It was nominated for a Booker Prize in 1987.[1] The book has been adapted for television and radio.

Plot summary[edit]

In the dingy vestry of St. Matthew's Church, Paddington, two bodies have been found with their throats slashed. One is an alcoholic vagrant, whereas the other is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown. Poet and Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates one of the most convoluted cases of his career.[2]


The title is drawn from a short poem by A. E. Housman: "Some can gaze and not be sick,/But I could never learn the trick./There's this to say for blood and breath,/ They give a man a taste for death".


In a 1986 book review for The New York Times, Robert B. Parker wrote the book is "graced by one of the most felicitous prose styles I know. Ms. James is simply a wonderful writer."[2] The Sunday Times called it "A cunningly compulsive work... heart-pounding suspense". In a 1986 piece on James by Julian Symons, he notes A Taste for Death "is the longest, most ambitious and the best of Phyllis James's 10 novels."[3]


A television version of the novel was produced for Britain's ITV network in 1988. It starred Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh.


  1. ^ Leader, Zachary (2003). On Modern British Fiction. Oxford University Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-199-24933-6. 
  2. ^ a b Parker, Robert B. (November 2, 1986). "Adam Dalgliesh Sees Everything". New York Times. New York. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  3. ^ Symons, Julian (October 5, 1986). "The Queen of Crime: P. D. James". New York Times. New York. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 

External links[edit]