Death in Holy Orders

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Death in Holy Orders
First edition
Author P. D. James
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series Adam Dalgliesh, No. 11
Genre Crime, mystery novel
Publisher Faber & Faber
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback and paperback)
Pages 640 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-375-43117-9 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 45714861
Preceded by 'A Certain Justice'
Followed by 'The Murder Room'

Death in Holy Orders is a 2001 detective novel in the Adam Dalgliesh series by P. D. James.


The novel is mainly set in and around an Anglo-Catholic theological college, Saint Anselm's, on the windswept coast of East Anglia. It provides an insight into the structure of the Church of England and its training of students, known as ordinands, for religious ministry.


Dalgliesh visits Saint Anselm's in a semi-official capacity to follow up the death of a student some time previously as his father was not satisfied with the verdict. Whilst there, a visiting archdeacon is murdered. Dalgliesh is assigned the investigation, summoning DI Miskin and DI Tarrant from London to assist, as well as local officers. Initial suspicion falls on one of the fathers who run and teach at the college, as the archdeacon was known to be recommending the closure of the college.

Two more murders follow and, after all present have been questioned, several secrets become known - including the fact that one of the students is unknowingly the son of one of the lay lecturers and that, through his mother, he will inherit the property should it be closed and sold. Forensic evidence clinches the case against the lecturer and he confesses. The college is closed and the student inherits the proceeds.

In this novel, Dalgliesh meets and begins a relationship with Dr Emma Lavenham, a visiting teacher from Cambridge.


The novel was adapted for television in 2003 as a two-part BBC mini-series.