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An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (Cordelia Gray #1)

3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  10,201 Ratings  ·  559 Reviews
Handsome Cambridge dropout Mark Callender died hanging by the neck with a faint trace of lipstick on his mouth. When the official verdict is suicide, his wealthy father hires fledgling private investigator Cordelia Gray to find out what led him to self-destruction. What she discovers instead is a twisting trail of secrets and sins, and the strong scent of murder.

An Unsuita
Paperback, 205 pages
Published 1997 by Penguin Books in association with Faber & Faber (first published 1972)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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James Thane
This book, which was first published in 1972, reads like it was written in 1947, if not earlier. It's very much in the tradition of English mysteries that were set in country houses in the years between the two world wars, and there's nothing in the book to suggest the time period in which it is supposed to actually take place. There are a number of young men and women in the book, but they don't sound remotely like the young people who were living in England in the '60s and '70s; rather they so ...more
Nov 24, 2015 KOHEY.Y. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: home-library
In this case,let me say “judge a book by its memorable title.”
I’d like this book to be categorized as a good literary fiction with human drama,not just a detective.
This well-written,and austerely beautiful novel has no gadget,isn’t action-packed or sexy,but here one young female detective, who lost her mentor recently,walks the scenes,talks to people and gets
to the heart of things.I guess this simplicity will let you feel empathy for the charcters. I sometimes wonder how deceptive the word“simp
Jan 15, 2013 Jane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, book-club
Where I got the book: my local library.

My first shock of this review is checking Wiki to see where this novel comes in P.D. James's oeuvre and discovering that P.D. stands for Phyllis Dorothy. Let me just take a moment.

*clears throat*

Now where was I? Right. The second shock was discovering I wasn't all that impressed. I thought I liked P.D James. Have I changed or is this the Death Comes to Pemberley effect?

Anyway, I find that this was James's fifth novel. And indeed the writing is that of a sea
Mar 24, 2015 Candi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-crime
This was a fun, quick and suspenseful mystery set in Cambridge, England. Novice private detective, Cordelia Gray, is a very likeable character. Left to figure the business out on her own after her partner takes his own life, Cordelia is hired by the successful scientist, Ronald Callender, to determine why his son Mark committed suicide. But did Mark really commit suicide? This is what Cordelia questions and seeks to divine for herself. Plenty of twists and questionable suspects made this a page- ...more
Dhanaraj Rajan
Once a while, I like to read a crime/mystery novel. That does not mean that I hate reading crime novels. In fact, it is otherwise. The crime novels draw me into the book to such a level that I do not do anything else till I complete the novel.

The crime novel should keep me engaged. Or else it ceases to interest me. I love to become part of the plot especially as the companion to the principal detective. It should challenge my intelligence as I tend to find out the culprit myself from the evidenc
Jun 03, 2007 Trin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, english-lit
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Cordelia Gray, age 22, shows up to work one morning to find her boss, Bernie Pryde, dead by suicide; he has chosen this over suffering through cancer. While she’s handling this sorrow and the details, she is hired to find out why Cambridge dropout Mark Callendar has killed himself. The man who hires her is his father, and it doesn’t take Cordelia long to realize that murder is the far more likely cause of Mark’s death.

The search Cordelia undertakes reveals surprises, twists, elements of danger a
Here we are, it's P.D. James's fifth novel, and one would hope to see writerly progress being made. More substantial plots, more fully fleshed characters. I want James to expand beyond the stale, misanthropic souls who people her books (Dalgliesh excepted). I feel a little iconoclastic saying this, because James is one of the more revered mystery writers. "...even minor P.D. James characters are fully realized, given a pedigree, a school background and an attitude toward life," says the New York ...more
Susan Johnson
Jan 07, 2013 Susan Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this novel 30 years ago and had forgotten just how good it was. After reading "Death at Pemberley" and being so bitterly disappointed, I was a little worried when my Goodreads book club selected this for this month's read. I was worried that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered. Thankfully, it was even better than the first time through. I will go back now and read the second Cordelia Gray and wonder why there arent't any more.

Cordelia is a young, innocent detective called in by a
Lady Studland
Jan 25, 2016 Lady Studland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cordelia Gray finds herself the sole proprietor of the Private Investigation business she shared with her now deceased partner. Her first case is to investigate the suicide of a young man from a wealthy family who dropped out of college to become a gardener. There's no doubt it was suicide...or is there? Cordelia moves into the gardener's cottage and talks to his college friends to uncover the truth, often facing folks who really believe hers is an unsuitable job for a woman. This is P. D. James ...more
Mar 27, 2016 Karin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cordelia Gray, age 22, shows up to work one morning to find her boss, Bernie Pryde, dead by suicide; he has chosen this over suffering through cancer. While she’s handling this sorrow and the details, she is hired to find out why Cambridge dropout Mark Callendar has killed himself. The man who hires her is his father, and it doesn’t take Cordelia long to realize that murder is the far more likely cause of Mark’s death.

The search Cordelia undertakes reveals surprises, twists, elements of danger a
Jan 22, 2013 Penny rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-crime
This is not P D James at her best. There are so many great detective books by this author but this is not one of them.

This follows a young woman, Cordelia Gray, who is asked to investigate the suicide of a young man who was a student at Cambridge. She is asked to try to find out why he killed himself by the father.

(view spoiler)
Eileen Daly-Boas
Apr 21, 2012 Eileen Daly-Boas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No spoilers.
A wonderful mystery that grabs you from the first page. James' descriptions of characters make them immediately three-dimensional, and you are pulled along with Cordelia Gray as her invisible Watson. I found Cordelia to be a very real character and although the book was published in 1972, it's still mostly timeless. The idea that everyone seems to think detective work is unsuitable for a woman shouldn't ring as true today, but it does. And every young woman (and perhaps man) finds
Dec 30, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm torn about whether to give this 3 or 4 stars. I'll give it 4 now, and we'll see how that goes. Maybe I'll read more by her and then reassess it against her larger oeuvre. Anyway, I really liked this a lot. I used to read mysteries like crazy in high school, but somehow I never read P. D. James. Pity. Her work has all of that typical coziness of the British mystery, but because the main character is a private eye, it doesn't strain credibility like Miss Marple or something, constantly stumbl ...more
Aug 30, 2012 Lara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-in-2012
This first book in a series featuring DI Dalgliesh, but mainly from the wings. He only plays a cameo role, but he is mentioned many times. It is really the story of a young woman in the 70s who is having to make it in the world on her own. Despite her social isolation, she is caring and is willing to use her intelligence as well as her looks to further her cause. The book is full of the culture of the day; when young women were raised to do the washing up, make tea, and not challenge men. But, i ...more
Marilyn Green Faulkner
PD James is the finest mystery writer today I think. Her vocabulary is not only challenging, but spot-on. When she uses a word, it belongs where it lands. She is marvelously well read, and laces her narrative with beautiful quotations from classic authors. Her mysteries are always intriguing, and I've never figured one out before the end. I started with one of the last Adam Dalgliesh novels and worked my way backward to the beginning. Recently I realized that she wrote two novels about a female ...more
Dec 10, 2014 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good read with twists and turns in the plot. I enjoyed the fact that the protagonist was a young woman who was detecting for the first time on her own. Again, the writing was wonderful with great use of vocabulary and an interesting storyline. I will continue to read this author. It is refreshing to see that even after the age of 40 an author can produce a fascinating series of books. This lady just recently passed at the age of 94 but leaves a great legacy of novels.
Jun 06, 2016 C. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was game to get started with Phyllis Dorothy James, when she passed away. It is difficult to describe “An Unsuitable Job For A Woman”. Suicide is a grisly introduction but many segments were slow. Interviews with informants played out languidly, instead of cutting to revealing parts. Many private musings were worth keeping because this is how we acquaint Cordelia Gray. Her unusual upbringing, having a somewhat crooked Father whilst educated at a convent school, informs her handling of life. Sh ...more
Jun 29, 2015 Fanficfan44 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The main character Cordelia Gray is intelligent, brave, and resourceful without seeming over the top superpowerish. The mystery was well plotted and the clues were very subtlely placed. I am sad to discover that there are only two of these Cordelia Gray books but I will definitely read the second one as I liked this one so much. The scene in which Corelia meets Dagliesh is superb, it highlights the difference in their character and yet the mutual respect for their sk ...more
I'm of two minds about this book. There are parts I liked and others I disliked quite a bit. Which would explain why it took me so long to finish. This is a reread but I had no memories of reading it although I know I have read it during my binge of P.D. James way back when A Taste for Death came out in French somewhere in the mid 1980s.

So Cordelia is half in the things I liked and half in the things I disliked. I liked that she is persistent, clever in her own way, empathic and ultimately good
Feb 23, 2010 Nikki rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime, for-class
Read for my Crime Fiction class. This one certainly wasn't talked up at all by the lecturer, which didn't help, but her comment that "Gray" is a very appropriate name for this female detective is unfortunately true. The whole book was drab and gray for me: the writing was never exciting, the tension never had me curious to read on, the characters rarely compelled me -- the only character I found interesting was the murdered boy, who I felt sorry for.

I'm sure this must be somehow influential or i
Gillian Kevern
Feb 19, 2016 Gillian Kevern rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970s
This was the book that changed my mind on P.D. James. Cordelia's youthful optimism is a really good foil to the pervasive sadness of other P.D. James novels. I was again surprised at home vividly I remembered some parts of it. I don't know if I was reading so much as reconstructing a memory of it, but it was really enjoyable.
Mary Corbal
No está mal, pero no me ha enganchado tanto como otras de sus novelas.
Apr 20, 2016 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been in the mood for mystery fiction lately, and this is another one in that genre that I've read recently. This book follows Cordelia Gray, a young woman who has just inherited a private detective agency after her employer died. She is hired to investigate the suicide of a young man, Mark, a promising student who abruptly left his studies at Cambridge and hanged himself. Cordelia is hired by his father, who does not dispute that the boy killed himself, but only wants to find out why. Howev ...more
Cordelia Gray finds herself somewhat unexpectedly the owner of both a detective business and an unlicensed handgun at the tender age of 22 when her partner and senior detective commits suicide. On the day of his funeral, she lands her first case, which takes her to a remote cottage in the country outside of Cambridge where all manner of strange secrets lurk. Is someone really trying to stop her from solving her case? Will she give up before she figures it out? Is being a private investigator rea ...more
Apr 10, 2016 kheyzaran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
یک پلیسی زنانه. فمنیسمی راستین و غیر شعاری در تار و پود معما. کوردلیای نازنین.
Never tell an unnecessary lie; the truth has great authority. The cleverest murders have been caught, not because they told the one essential lie, but because they continued to lie about unimportant detail when the truth could have done them no harm.

...intelligent but not clever

(view spoiler)

I particularly loved the nineteen seventies setting in this book and seeing how much things have changed, in particular for a woman, for whom this job would no longer be considered unsuitable. Cordelia is really ahead of her time. I also love the Cambridge and countryside settings. I think you need a nice setting in a murder story to make it bearable.
Diane Challenor
I finished all the Adam Dalgleish books and I wanted more stories from PD James. I love her intricate detail and turn of phrase. I wasn't disappointed with this one about Cordelia Grey. I'll read the next one in the series soon. Thank goodness there's more of PD James' writing to enjoy.
Mar 05, 2015 Sandie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My second reading of this book. Loved it just as much. Phyllis Dorothy James is one of my favorite mystery writers. Good characters, good plot, and a bit of a twist at the end.

The book takes place in Cambridge, and is Cordelia Gray's first case after the death of her boss, who leaves his detective agency to her. She is hired by his wealthy father to find information about the improbable death of a young man and gets herself into trouble doing so. Adam Dalgleish makes a brief appearance.

I think t
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P. D. (Phyllis Dorothy) James was the author of twenty books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Department of Great Britain's Home Office. She served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BB
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Other Books in the Series

Cordelia Gray (2 books)
  • The Skull Beneath the Skin (Cordelia Gray, #2)

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“She had quickly learned that to show unhappiness was to risk the loss of love.” 7 likes
“The eyes were certainly memorable and beautiful, moist calves' eyes heavily lashed and with the same look of troubled pain at the unpredictability of the world's terrors.” 3 likes
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