Name at birth: Phyllis Dorothy James
One of the most famous mystery novelists in the world, P.D. James was the author of several novels featuring the clever poet-detective, Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh. Her first novel, Cover Her Face (1962), was written over a period of three years, while James raised two children and worked as a civil servant in London. (She held several bureaucratic posts throughout her writing career.) Both popular and critically-acclaimed, her mysteries were usually of the "closed circle of suspects" variety, and she is considered by some to be a more literary version of Agatha Christie. Her novels include Shroud For A Nightingale (1971), An Unsuitable Job For A Woman (1972), A Taste For Death (1986) and Death in Holy Orders (2001); in 2000 she published her autobiography, Time To Be In Earnest. Several of her books have made it to television and film, including her 2011 novel Death Comes to Pemberley, a mystery riff on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1983 and entered the House of Lords as Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991; she sat with the Conservatives there. The Guardian called her "the queen of crime fiction" upon her death from natural causes in 2014.