Adam Dalgliesh

Adam Dalgliesh

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


Dalgliesh, who holds the high position of Commander in the Metropolitan Police Service at New Scotland Yard in London, is an intensely cerebral and private person. He writes poetry, a fact which his colleagues are fond of reminding him of. Several volumes of his poetry have been published. Dalgliesh lives in a flat above the Thames at Queenhithe in the City of London and drives 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 others, a converted windmill located on the Norfolk coast. Dalgliesh rose within the ranks of Scotland Yard, from Constable to his present rank as Commander. 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 at childbirth many years ago and was reluctant to commit himself ever since. His relationship with Deborah Riscoe ended because of this. However, during his time at St. Anselm's in Suffolk, he meets Cambridge lecturer Emma Lavenham and later finally decides to ask her to marry him. The wedding takes place at the end of "The Private Patient", published in 2008.

A number of parallels may be drawn between Dalgliesh and another contemporary fictional detective, Inspector Morse.

Recurring characters

* Detective Sergeant Martin is Dalgliesh's partner in "Cover Her Face".

* Detective Sergeant Masterson serves as Dalgliesh's partner in "Shroud for a Nightingale".

* Detective Chief Inspector Massingham is Dalgliesh's first permanent - albeit moody and arrogant - partner until he succeeds his late father in the House of Lords.

* Detective Inspector Kate Miskin serves with Dalgliesh and Massingham in Scotland Yard's Special Investigation Squad. After Piers Tarrant leaves the Squad to join Special Branch, she begins a short romantic relationship with him. In "The Lighthouse", Miskin takes over running the investigation when Dalgliesh contracts SARS.

* Detective Inspector Daniel Aaron replaces Massingham after he leaves Scotland Yard, but is presumably suspended after the events of Original Sin.

* Detective Inspector Piers Tarrant is Aaron's replacement in the Squad and later joins Special Branch.

* Detective Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is the most recent addition to the Squad and replaces Tarrant after his transfer to Special Branch. The ambitious and good-looking son of English and Indian parents is at first resented by his colleague Kate Miskin but they develop a good working relationship.

* Deborah Riscoe is one of Dalgliesh's romantic interests; they first meet when a murder shakes Riscoe's home in "Cover Her Face" and their relationship develops over the course of A Mind to Murder. However, because of Dalgliesh's reluctance to commit, Riscoe ends their relationship via mail at the conclusion of Unnatural Causes, accepting a transfer to the United States of America.

* Conrad Ackroyd is one of Dalgliesh's personal friends. He is a member of the "Cadaver Club", a private club of crime enthusiasts that features in "Unnatural Causes" as well as other novels. Ackroyd's connections in the London establishment are often an asset to Dalgliesh.

* Emma Lavenham is a lecturer in literature at Cambridge University and another of Dalgliesh's romantic interests. They meet in "Death in Holy Orders", develop a relationship during "The Murder Room", and following Dalgliesh's convalescing from SARS on Combe Island in "The Lighthouse", they decide to marry.

* Jane Dalgliesh was Adam Dalgiesh's aunt and his sole living relative until her death prior to "Devices and Desires". She was introduced in "Unnatural Causes", where she is described as a very private and cerebral person, not unlike Dalgliesh himself. She was fond of bird watching and possessed both a cottage in Suffolk as well as a converted windmill in Norfolk which Dalgliesh inherits in "Devices and Desires".

* Cordelia Gray is a private detective and runs a detective agency in Kingsly Street. In the two novels in the Gray series, "An Unsuitable Job for a Woman" and "The Skull Beneath the Skin", Dalgliesh makes several small appearances. He is asked to look into the death of Sir Ronald Callender in Cambridge and acquits Gray of any charges. Obviously, Gray and Dalgliesh stayed in contact, because Dalgliesh receives a congratulation card from Gray while convalescing after a successful operation at the beginning of "The Black Tower". Gossiping Conrad Ackroyd also remarks on Dalgliesh being seen dining out with Cordelia in "A Taste for Death".

Television adaptations

All of James' novels featuring Adam Dalgliesh through "The Murder Room" have been adapted for television, beginning with "Death of an Expert Witness" in 1983. The first ten novels were adapted by ITV channel Anglia Television 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, partly because they are out of order.

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