British crime writer P.D. James, who brought realistic modern characters to the classical detective story, has died, publisher Faber and Faber said Thursday. She was 94.
James' books sold millions in many countries and most were just as popular when made into television films. Many of her mysteries featured fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh. Her books were strong on character, avoided stereotype and touched on distinctly modern problems including drugs, child abuse and nuclear contamination. James was often spoken of as an heir to Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, icons of the classic British mystery, but her admirers thought she transcended both. "Doyle and Christie are genre writers — clever, yes, but one must suspend considerable disbelief right from the get-go when reading their works," author Anita Shreve said. "No such acrobatics are necessary with a James novel." The Crime Writers' Association gave P.D. James its Diamond Dagger award in 1987 for lifetime achievement, and in 2005 the National Arts Club honored James with its Medal of Honor for Literature.