“An Unsuitable Job for a Woman” is a crime novel written by the celebrated British author, P.D. James. The novel follows the story of Cordelia Gray, a young woman who inherits a private detective agency after the suicide of her former boss and mentor, Bernie Pryde. Cordelia had been working as Pryde’s assistant, and although inexperienced, she decides to take on the role of the detective and run the agency on her own.

Book Cover: An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

At the beginning of the novel, Cordelia is struggling to keep the detective agency afloat as she takes on minor cases such as finding lost pets and investigating minor frauds. However, her life changes when she is approached by Sir Ronald Callender, a wealthy businessman who hires her to investigate the death of his son, Mark, who was found hanged in his room at the university.

Cordelia takes on the case and soon finds herself immersed in a complex web of secrets and lies that surround the Callender family and the university. She must navigate the complicated social dynamics of the academic community to uncover the truth about Mark’s death, which leads her to question the integrity of some of the faculty members, students and the Callender family.

Throughout the novel, Cordelia struggles to establish herself in a male-dominated profession, and she encounters personal and professional challenges along the way. She must deal with the condescending attitudes of her male colleagues, her own inexperience, and her lack of confidence in her abilities as a detective. The novel is known for its exploration of gender roles and the nature of power in relationships.

As Cordelia delves deeper into the case, she uncovers a shocking truth that forces her to question her own morality and her ability to carry out her duties as a detective. The novel culminates in a dramatic conclusion, which leaves Cordelia facing some difficult choices about her future.

Overall, “An Unsuitable Job for a Woman” is a complex and well-crafted crime novel that explores the themes of power, gender, and morality. P.D. James is known for her mastery of the crime genre, and this novel is a testament to her skill as a writer.


Katie Hoey · March 15, 2023 at 5:05 pm

When A Unsuitable Job For a Woman begins, Cordelia Grey’s business partner and mentor, Bernie Pryde, has just committed suicide after learning he has cancer. Bernie leaves Cordelia the business, Pride Detective Agency, and an unregistered gun. Bernie was a former police detective who had previously worked under CID’s Detective Superintendent Dalgliesh. Pryde would regularly quote the “Super” about investigative procedures and these lessons would come back to Cordelia’s mind throughout as she investigates her first solo case.
Following Bernie’s funeral, Cordelia is asked to investigate the suicide of a young Cambridge University dropout called Mark Callender. Mark’s father, Sir Ronald, is a prominent scientist who didn’t have much contact with his son, but he tells Cordelia that he needed to know why his son would have hanged himself.
Cordelia takes up lodging in the rundown gardener’s cottage where Mark had died. So much is unclear. Mark left a stew uncooked, a garden fork stuck in half dig earth and his shoes by the door. Cordelia meets his friends but they are fairly vague about their relationship with Mark and don’t really answer Cordelia’s questions. Sir Ronald’s assistant/housekeeper is superior and very unhelpful. The Marklands, who had employed Mark in his last few weeks, are shadows on the edge of the story. Something is evidently not right and Cordelia is soon convinced that Mark was murdered. But how can it be proved?
When we met as a group to discuss this book, we found that we all had really enjoyed the story and most said they would read more books by P D James. As a frequent visitor to Cambridge, I enjoyed the descriptions of the lovely city and could really visualize the surroundings, from the college itself to the ramshackle cottage which was the scene of the suicide and also Cordelia’s temporary “home” while investigating the case. P D James’ writing is at once simple and well done and moves along at a steady pace that does speed up. This is the first time I have read any of P D James’s books and after enjoying this one, I will certainly read more of her work in the future.

Joyce Beadnall · March 15, 2023 at 7:20 pm

I really enjoyed this book and will definitely look for more PD James books. James skilfully created problems and crises, which certainly kept me guessing. Cordelia is a novice private detective, and I would enjoy reading about her developing skills and successes in future novels.

Lynne Amos · March 16, 2023 at 5:30 pm

A novel about a young private detective on her first solo case after her business partner has committed suicide. Set in the early ‘70’s, the authors style gave me the impression of Cordelia, the main character, being well spoken and intelligent, keen to continue in her pursuit of justice.
There are a few surprises along the way but Cordelia manages to solve the case with a good plot twist towards the end. A thoroughly enjoyable read, left with the hope that she makes a success of her business. I will be looking out for more books in this series

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