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Cover Her Face

(Adam Dalgliesh #1)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  28,560 ratings  ·  1,124 reviews
Headstrong and beautiful, the young housemaid Sally Jupp is put rudely in her place, strangled in her bed behind a bolted door. Coolly brilliant policeman Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard must find her killer among a houseful of suspects, most of whom had very good reason to wish her ill.

Cover Her Face is P. D. James's electric debut novel, an ingeniously plotted mystery

Paperback, 250 pages
Published May 8th 2001 by Scribner (first published 1962)
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Christine Cody I have been reading the detective series in order since I retired. I think doing so adds wonderful layers to the reading. Often authors bring back…moreI have been reading the detective series in order since I retired. I think doing so adds wonderful layers to the reading. Often authors bring back someone introduced in an earlier book. It's interesting to know the connection, how they met, suspect or victim, disinterested party, etc. It makes the whole experience richer. So, while it isn't imperative, I would say that it's a good idea to read the books in order if you can. It's also wonderful to see the authors become more familiar with their characters and be able to see the authors become even better and flesh out their characters more. (less)

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3.94  · 
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 ·  28,560 ratings  ·  1,124 reviews

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Aug 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Back to basics! I switched from modern cozies and crime fiction to a supposed blast from the past. I remembered a few PD James novels I read in college as part of my mystery fiction independent studies and decided to start the series.

As expected, very reminiscent of Agatha Christie but with a little more modern appeal. I enjoyed the characters and premise for a traditional whodunit!

I also like the wrap up of all the main characters in the end, as well as that at least one of them is seen again
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After my brain injury, PD James became a marker for me in my reading progress. Pre-injury I read every one of her books and enjoyed them tremendously for their good writing and good stories. After my injury though, with my reading ability fried, I couldn't read any of her books. Too many characters to follow, plots that meandered beyond my ability to follow, writing at a grade level higher than what I'd sunk down to... It was rather disappointing to see her new books come out over the years and ...more
Manuel Antão
Dec 12, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, 2009
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Triteness and Boringness: "Cover Her Face” by P. D. James

“The cultured cop! I thought they were peculiar to detective novels.”

In “Cover Her Face” by P. D. James

Sometimes people just like to talk about the books they're reading. Not boast. Just talk. I realise such plebeian behaviour may not be acceptable in the rarefied circles some people move in, but for the rest of us mere mortals it happens quite a lot. Given that reading is becomi
Jun 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, overdrive
It's been a long time since I read a book by this author, but I think I remember having liked them. Maybe the other books were better or maybe I have just outgrown my interest in mysteries, at least the British variety with tea cups, jam jars, jumble sales and small gossipy villages. Whatever the reason, I was really unimpressed by this book.

Most of the suspects were introduced in tedious detail in the first chapter, but the murder did not occur until about the 25% point of the book. At that ti
May 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have not read the first Adam Dalgleish novel for some time, so it was a pleasure to return to P D James and her very first book. In some ways this is a very typical mystery. The Maxie family live in the big house, in somewhat genteel poverty, with the only full time staff member the loyal Martha. As well as the housework and cooking, Mr Maxie is bedridden, so Mrs Maxie employs Sally Jupp, an unmarried mother as a house-parlourmaid. She is convinced by Miss Liddell, the Warden of St Mary’s Refu ...more
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Where I got the book: Audiobook on Audible.

I thought it was about time I listened to the entire Adam Dalgleish series—I’ve read some of them but certainly none of the early ones. In this 1962 story you can see the tradition that goes back to the Golden Age of the detective story in the 1930s. All the clichés are there: the stately home, the nerve-ridden war hero, the lower classes kowtowing to the upper, the vicar a sort of go-between in terms of social status.

Except that it wasn’t, of course—J
Bill Kupersmith
Jul 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I was working in London the summer of the year this book was first published but only now have I got round to reading it for the Kindle English Mystery Group. Although P. D. James shared with her friend Ruth Rendell the honour of making the detective story into a serious literary genre, Cover Her Face seems now to belong to the world of Agatha Christie than to ours, where crime fiction is the form of the novel that best engages serious moral and spiritual issues. Of course it was James and Rende ...more
Dec 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery, crime
Meh. P.D. James is a competent writer and puts together a reasonable mystery, but there's nothing exciting about it -- I felt like I'd read it before, honestly. The Kindle version has very bad formatting, too ("that" turns into "mat", for example); no one bothered to proofread it. None of the characters are particularly interesting to me -- again, I seemed to have read all about them before, in other crime novels.

I think I had the same reaction to another P.D. James book, so maybe I just don't c
Feb 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mystery, 2010
I'm beginning to think by some coincidence the very first PD James I read also happened to be the only interesting book she's ever written. Honestly, I would really like to like her, but I can't. Cover Her Face is her first novel and I wonder how she ever became successful this way. It suffers from all the flaws I've found pervasive in her other novels – boring descriptions, unlikeable characters, and zero suspense. The mystery plot has a lot of painstakingly crafted red herrings and clues, bu ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
PD Jame's first mystery novel, and a confusing one it is.

Though I did enjoy it, one must quickly become accustomed to her very, very literary writing style. Two things stand out: long sentences and a somewhat confusing omniscient POV. There were moments when I thought: who is this talking? What? Whose head am I in? There's also the custom of placing quotation marks around thoughts, so very often I'd be thinking - what? Is She or He saying that aloud?

However, Ms. James does conveniently write, '
This was James’ first crime novel, debuting DCI Adam Dalgliesh who gets far less character padding or attention than the victim, suspect pool, or even his accompanying sergeant. I enjoy James’ character building enormously, it’s really her forte, and especially the way she often leaves Dalgliesh to the role of observer, concentrating on the crime rather than the draw of a serialised detective. In Cover her Face, none of the characters are overly likeable, but they are all very strongly presented ...more
May 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This introduction to the Adam Dalgliesh series is a cross between an English country house mystery and a police procedural. It tends to feel more like the former since the detective is mostly absent and the family members seem central. Sally Jupp, a household employee with a secretive past, dies at the hands of a killer in an apparently locked room. Neither Sally nor the family members were likable. I would prefer more involvement from the police detective. I listened to the audio version read b ...more
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Miriam by: Bettie
Shelves: mystery
I see Dalgliesh is James' recurring detective character, but we don't get a strong personality here. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, is a bit more complex and developed than is standard for this sort of mystery. As usual I disliked them all, and the one that I found most interesting was on page the least. At least the romance was kept to a minimum.
Matt Glaviano
Feb 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: mysteries, 2008
I like keeping a crime novel handy sometimes when I’m reading a nonfiction book. I tend to find fiction a bit more relaxing, and would prefer not to read a book like The Omnivore’s Dilemma (the other book I’m reading) before bed. This was James’ debut novel, and it reads quite assuredly for being such. A well constructed, if unsurprising, mystery. I don’t mean that the identity of the killer was unsurprising; I mean that, in general, the book stuck well within the confines of its genre. One thin ...more
Tracey the Bookworm
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The oldies are the best.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Aug 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
James spent a lot of time introducing the suspects and setting the scene. In fact, had I not known this is the first in a detective series, I might have thought it a good piece of literary fiction. For awhile, I wasn't even sure which of the characters was to be the victim. And then, of course, a body was discovered and the mystery was on.

This is all to say that prose and characterization are the best of this. By that I don't mean that there wasn't enough mystery - I had as many ideas who was th
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've previously read a couple of other PD James' Inspector Dalgleish mysteries before and enjoyed very much. I like how intelligent James writes. This is the first Dalgleish mystery and I must say I enjoyed as much as the others I've read. Dalgleish is almost a peripheral character in the story, James rather focusses on the other characters/ suspects and their activities, motivations as she develops the story. Basically, Sally Juup, a housemaid is found dead (strangled) in her bedroom. All of th ...more
May 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: all Brit mystery fans
I'm hovering between three stars and four and pick three simply because I know the later books in the series get better, and I need a way to go up! Adam Dalgliesh is my favorite P.D. James character, and though I have read many of the novels and seen most of the BBC productions featuring him, I had never actually read this 1962 book, the first in the series. It was very interesting to see the character introduced, and gratifying to find this an engrossing read, full of the sensitivity to motivat ...more
Feb 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Was able to finish this book but couldn't really care how it ended up - not one redeeming character and very little development of the Detective. I'm assuming this is because this is a series so why make me like the Detective and want me to read more about him and his cases. . .don't focus on him but rather the boring, selfish other 'suspects' and 'victim'. To be fair I should read at least one more in the series to see if it gets better (based on other reviews it sounds like it gets better). Ho ...more
Prakash Murthy
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The first novel by P. D. James. Also, the first book of P. D. James that I have read.

I was interested in reading up a P. D. James book since I have finished up most of Agatha Christie's books and James seems to be a good replacement for Christie.

Of the two, I think James is the better murder mystery writer - based on the proof of this one book. Her writing is more realistic and true to life. Her characters are more nuanced and three dimensional than Christie's.

Agatha Christie's books are all fo
Nancy Oakes
I read this book EONS ago but had totally forgotten the plot, the mystery and the killer, so it was truly like reading it for the first time. Now I'm interested enough to reread more of my books by this author. If you haven't read it, go get a copy. It's a great book, a great mystery, filled with enough suspects and red herrings to keep the most avid mystery fan interested through the entire book. I thought I had it figured out but I was so off the mark it wasn't funny.

brief summary, no spoilers
Mar 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: mystery
This is a classic English mystery along the lines of an Agatha Christie story. There is the upper class family who lives in their family manor and is attended to by servants. One of these, Sally Jupp, was a meddlesome single mother and her death by strangulation is what brings Inspector Adam Dalgliesh into the the case. In typical fashion he interviews all the suspects, looks beyond the obvious solutions, and in a confrontation gets the killer to admit to the crime. Few other writers today captu ...more
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is another of P.D. James' very early Dalgliesh novels. Much like UNNATURAL CAUSES, it displays a certain dated view of society no longer seen in the 21st century. Whereas it is displayed in UNNATURAL CAUSES in the author's attitude toward disability, in COVER HER FACE it emerges in the portrayal of an unwed mother as a sly, deceitful, and wicked person who happens to be physically beautiful, but is targeted by virtually everyone around her a sinner and a wretch from whom gratitude is expect ...more
Shabbeer Hassan
The first story to feature Adam Dalgliesh as the DCI investigating a murder in which all the family members are suspects. The revelation at the end is not an "ah-ha" moment, and the writing is pretty much uneven. A perfectly passable story but if you are here for Dalgliesh I would recommend reading the later ones.

My Rating -3/5
Apr 16, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to booklady by: Michelle A. and Melissa
Shelves: 2008, mystery
Began 24 April 2008. Lots of background info. Slow start.
First mystery I've read by P.D. James. Not bad--certainly got better as it went along; she lays a lot of foundation and then builds on it. However, at the end of the book she leaves you with the promise of more interesting things to come for her hero, Adam Dalgleish, in future books.

Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

The audio production was really poor. The narrator was fine but the sound was tinny. I got used to it but it sounded like it had been recorded in 1962 when written rather than 2008!

None of the people I suspected might be the killer of maid Sally Juup turned out to be the one. The murderer was really a surprise and that was a good enough reason to round up! There is little action in this book and that's just fine. The murder occurs about a 1/4 of the way into the book, a
Apr 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
P.D. James first novel and is the first one I have read. A cracking good mystery with a few clues and a myriad of red herrings. Sally Jupp was a very sneaky and unlikeable woman who liked to play games with peoples minds. Bolted doors, drugged drinks, ladders and a list of suspects that all hated her. The family she was the maid, foster parents and a jealous woman as well as Martha the cook.

The Maxie dysfunctional family and hanger ons created a great background with Inspector Adam Dalgliesh th
Tory Wagner
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, british
I recently read a Dagliesh mystery and decided to go back and read the first book by P.D. James that featured this character. Cover Her Face introduces this enigmatic character who has become famous in England and across the pond. This mystery takes place at a quintessential British manor and multiple suspects abound in the death of a servant who has created an atmosphere of fear and hate among the residents of the manor. Through skillful interviews, Dagliesh gets to the crux of the matter despi ...more
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2018-reads, mystery, audio

The mystery aspect was fine, but sadly that was pretty the entire book. There was absolutely no personal plot into Dalgliesh or any of the secondary characters. It wasn't a bad read, but I prefer more personal connections to the characters.

Don't think I'll be reading future installments.
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P. D. James, byname of Phyllis Dorothy James White, Baroness James of Holland Park, (born August 3, 1920, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England—died November 27, 2014, Oxford), British mystery novelist best known for her fictional detective Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard.

The daughter of a middle-grade civil servant, James grew up in the university town of Cambridge. Her formal education, however, ended at

Other books in the series

Adam Dalgliesh (1 - 10 of 14 books)
  • A Mind to Murder (Adam Dalgliesh #2)
  • Unnatural Causes (Adam Dalgliesh #3)
  • Shroud for a Nightingale (Adam Dalgliesh #4)
  • The Black Tower (Adam Dalgliesh #5)
  • Death of an Expert Witness (Adam Dalgliesh #6)
  • A Taste for Death (Adam Dalgliesh, #7)
  • Devices and Desires (Adam Dalgliesh #8)
  • Original Sin (Adam Dalgliesh #9)
  • A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh, #10)
  • Death in Holy Orders (Adam Dalgliesh, #11)
“For heaven's sake, Darling, keep your crusading instinct [for social justice] under control...It's uncomfortable to live with especially for those of us who haven't got one.” 7 likes
“The cultured cop! I thought they were peculiar to detective novels.” 1 likes
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