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

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  8,309 ratings  ·  429 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 Unsui

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Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 17th 2001 by Touchstone (first published 1972)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jane
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
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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
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Candi
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
Lobstergirl
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
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
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Trin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Penny
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)
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Eileen Daly-Boas
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
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Richard
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
Lara
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
Carol
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.
Writerlibrarian
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
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Nikki
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
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Mary Corbal
No está mal, pero no me ha enganchado tanto como otras de sus novelas.
Jen
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
Zakariah Johnson
The most surprising thing about this novel by the prolific P. D. James is that she only wrote one more in the "Cordelia Gray" series. (Although the character has apparently had a second life of sorts as a anime comic!) It's 1972, Cordelia is 22 years old, and nothing you would expect. Hers has been a life in and out of foster care and finally the security of a Catholic school (where she was the token Protestant) then interrupted by the arrogant resurfacing of her itinerate Marxist-revolutionary- ...more
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.
Sandie
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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Alex
It's interesting when crime writers have a clear lead character that they love, and decide to branch out into a different one along similar genre lines. Val McDermid transitioned from reckless PI Kate Brannigan to impotent psychologist Tony Hill and sexually frustrated Carol Jordan, and here James transitions from the poetic detective inspector Adam Dalgliesh to the ingenue PI Cordelia Gray. You might have sensed that the two authors went in opposite directions.

A PI has the benefit of not having
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Johnny
What happens when a very sharp woman finds herself in partnership with a failed detective only to discover that the detective was never quite what he claimed to be? What happens when that same failed detective commits suicide and leaves that detective agency to that same woman? Can she operate under the methodological standards her deceased partner has given her, vicarious words of wisdom from James’ other protagonist, Chief Superintendent Adam Dalgleish?
My impression is that a very satisfying
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Ifigenia
El primer libro que leo de la autora y dudo mucho que me acerque otra vez por voluntad propia a ella. Se me ha hecho muy pesado, a ratos me planteaba dejarlo, encima esos capítulos tan largos no me ayudaban mucho a seguir con él.

Con una prota de lo más desgraciada que acaba de "tener su primera oportunidad" tras la muerte de su compañero de toda la vida (porque no quería acabar muriendo de cáncer, sino por su mano), Cordelia, pobre, con la herencia que Bernie (su socio) le ha dejado al morirse,
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Surreysmum
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Luffy Monkey D.
Reading this book was a pleasure. However it did expose my lack of acute concentration, if not my imagining. There was one place in the book where I could do with some exactitude, that is the detective in the well part. Unlike many cozy, and English mystery books, there are quite some prurient quips lying about. Many of the physical traits of the supporting cast are confidently described. P.D. James is some writer.

This book is one of the least domestic crime books I've ever read. The heroine l
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Liz Conklin
I read this for a Goodreads book club and enjoyed it, as I do almost anything English. I instantly liked Cordelia Gray, so confident and self-possessed. I have yet to fully understand her motives, but am looking forward to getting to know her better through subsequent books.

Below is the comment I posted to the English Mysteries book club discussion:

I find myself continuing to think about Cordelia and wondering why she made the choices she did. It would be interesting to have additional backgrou
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Nina Jon
This is the first PD James’novel I've read and therefore I'm unable to compare it to her other books. Although written in the 70s, tech apart, it didn't come across as dated. In some ways it reminded me of the first of the Millennium Trilogy. Both novels feature a family member who, dissatisfied with a police investigation, instruct someone outside the police to reopen the case, only to open a can of worms instead with all that entails.
The narrative structure was very easy to follow and I knew w
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Kirsten
P.D. James departs from the adventures of Adam Dalgliesh to bring us a most excellent female sleuth. Cordelia Gray has had, to put it mildly, a very eclectic upbringing. At 22, she finds herself the sole proprieter of a detective agency that's on the skids, and despite the tremendous odds against success, she is determined to make a go of it. Her first case is an odd one: a wealthy scientist hires her to investigate the suicide of his son, Mark. He was estranged from his son, and has a need to k ...more
Kim Fay
In my quest to learn more about women mystery writers, I've been reading authors who were considered groundbreaking in their time. PD James enjoys that status for her creation of Cordelia Gray, considered a very modern female character for a mystery (even though this book was written in 1972). The book starts off when Cordelia's partner dies and she inherits one of his clients. As a woman, she is not considered a competent choice for a P.I., but she is hired anyway, to help a prominent scientist ...more
Francoise
The book on tape had a lovely female narrator whose carefully ennuciated tones did justice to the carefully constructed, vocabulary-rich sentences P.D.James does so well.

This is one of James's early works about a young woman who inherits a detective agency from her partner Bernie. Finding out that he has incurable cancer, Bernie slits his wrists rather than shooting himself so he can leave Cordelia his gun. Needless to say, the gun that appears in the first act does get shot later in the story,
...more
K
I enjoyed this story much more than the previous one I'd read (A Mind To Murder). A wholly enjoyable story with a good number of plot twists and curiously, Dalglaish appears in the final chapter! I look forward to more like this.
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English Mysteries...: (1) January 2013 - An Unsuitable Job for a Woman 86 180 Nov 11, 2013 03:09PM  
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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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More about P.D. James...

Other Books in the Series

Cordelia Gray (2 books)
  • The Skull Beneath the Skin (Cordelia Gray, #2)
Death Comes to Pemberley The Children of Men Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh, #1) Shroud for a Nightingale (Adam Dalgliesh, #4) The Private Patient (Adam Dalgliesh, #14)

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“She had quickly learned that to show unhappiness was to risk the loss of love.” 5 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.” 2 likes
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