English Mysteries Club discussion

An Unsuitable Job for a Woman (Cordelia Gray, #1)
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Book of the Month pre-2020 > (1) January 2013 - An Unsuitable Job for a Woman

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Leslie | 1663 comments Well, just requested both books from the library - don't know if I'll have time to read both or not...


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I read An Unsuitable Job For A Woman and The Skull Beneath The Skin a few months ago. Both should still be fresh in my memory.


Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments I'll probably only get round to An Unsuitable Job - too many reading commitments for January. But I have read The Skull Beneath the Skin.


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Laura (apenandzen) | 1 comments I've read them both but I was a teenager and that was sadly over 20 years ago! Enjoyed them both.


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Jennifer Mae Finished


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Jennifer Mae Finished "An Unsuitable Job For A Woman" and really enjoyed it. I'm having more trouble finding the second book


Susan | 606 comments I just finished it today. I hadn't read it for 30 years so I needed the refresher. Can't wait for the discussion.


Valerie Brown Just finished "An Unsuitable Job....". I like P.D. James a lot, but have always found this novel hard to get into for some reason. Anyhow, onto the next one which I have not read before!


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Betty (betty30554) Valerie wrote: "Just finished "An Unsuitable Job....". I like P.D. James a lot, but have always found this novel hard to get into for some reason. Anyhow, onto the next one which I have not read before!"

Valerie, I also had trouble getting into it and finally went on to something else. What I don't understand is why I did that - I liked Cordelia Gray, the plot and the telling were very good, it had more humor without slacking on the details. I must try it again.


Kathy | 130 comments I read this book quite awhile ago, but I do want to participate in the discussion so I will get it and read it again. As I remember it this was one of her best.


Leslie | 1663 comments My copy finally arrived at the library - I clearly remember reading this 25+ years ago but now that I have started rereading it, nothing rings a bell. Glad I decided to read it again!


Susan | 606 comments Leslie wrote: "My copy finally arrived at the library - I clearly remember reading this 25+ years ago but now that I have started rereading it, nothing rings a bell. Glad I decided to read it again!"

You made me laugh out loud. I had the same experience. I, too, glad I read it again. I had absolutely no memory of it except I liked it.


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G Hodges (glh1) | 30 comments Ok. This is weird. The same thing happened to me. I remembered, once into it, the opening scene, but from there on (I am about 1/4 way through) no memories of it! What does it say about the book??? I love it so far.


message 14: by Jane (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments I think you can only remember so many books... I find that the test of time is important in determining my overall opinion of a book. If I remember anything about it after a year, that's a good sign.


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Tiffany | 6 comments This is why I can re-read mysteries. I almost always forget "who dunnit".


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Tracey (stewartry) I wonder if I still have these ... I know I used to, but for some reason never could get into them. Must check.


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Karen | 1 comments I went on a PD James binge few months ago and read or reread everything available at my library. I liked both of these books, even though I can't remember either of them right now lol.


Leslie | 1663 comments Tiffany wrote: "This is why I can re-read mysteries. I almost always forget "who dunnit"."

You and me both! :)


Arpita (BagfullofBooks) (bagfullofbooks) | 157 comments I was a bit surprised at the lengths Cordelia went to conceal Callender's murderer. Then I think she decided that miss leaming was justified in her killing of Callender. Sympathy for a Mother who decided to avenge the killing of her son?


Leslie | 1663 comments 1. I wasn't shocked so much as disappointed by Cordelia's concealment. The reason she gives to herself, that she is protecting Mark's memory, seems weak for someone who claims to be only sporadically religious.

Personally I like reading mysteries because I enjoy the feeling that right wins over wrong in the end (at least in the fictional world), so I don't care for the style in which the murderer escapes justice and/or capture. I guess I like my fictional world to be more black and white, as opposed to the shades of gray that comprise the real world. Just my personal taste.


Leslie | 1663 comments 2. I don't know if they interact enough to really have a relationship! However, Cordelia's attitude towards Dalgliesh is fun to read & certainly does change somewhat as the novel progresses. I was amused by the part where she wonders whether he is related to Adam Dalgliesh the poet!


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Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments I didn't like the concealment plot line at all. It seemed totally wrong for Cordelia who comes across as so cautious and anxious to be professional for most of the book. Then she goes and does something rash and unprofessional and for what? Because she feels some kind of sympathy for the deceased and his mother? Is this because she lost her own mother? It just doesn't work for me.


Sharla I rated this book after joining goodreads with four stars on the basis of having read it several years ago. I enjoyed it very much then. After skimming over it again for this group I find that I have the same problems with the way things go that Leslie and Jane have had. Cordelia's actions do not ring true to me at all. I do think justice is a dangerous concept when one person takes things into their own hands for whatever reason. As always, this P. D. James book was written well, lively and engaging. I guess I will leave the four stars.


Arpita (BagfullofBooks) (bagfullofbooks) | 157 comments Just an aside. I enjoyed reading most aspects of this book but after reading it I became very depressed by the mood of the book. My 'happy' book to cheer my up was Miss Read's Village Diary. This convinces me that I do not like reading mysteries that are on the grittier side.


Susan | 606 comments I, too, was surprised by Cordelia's actions including moving in and basically living his life. I just think she was grieving for her partner's death and somehow atoning for it. The best part of the book was her short interaction with Dagliesh and wondering if he was related to the poet.7


Sharla In an interesting aside, I read that the reason P. D. James only wrote two Cordelia novels was that she was upset by the portrayal of Cordelia in the movie version. Has anyone seen the movie version?


Leslie | 1663 comments I just checked IMDB and all I found was TV series (? 4 episodes one a year, looked like made-for-TV movies) from 1997-2001. I think the second book came out in the early 80's so this TV series can't be what deterred her...


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Liz | 2 comments I find myself continuing to think about Cordelia and wondering why she made the choices she did. It would be interesting to have additional background on her upbringing beyond the brief history we get in this book. Haven't read "Skull" yet so hoping to get more background there. I found her a very sympathetic and interesting woman, quite outspoken and strong and clever. I wasn't surprised at all that she picked up where Bernie Pryde left off. That was her chosen career, he had left the business to her, and by the end of this case, she must have felt quite capable of managing things, especially given her competent, and narrow, escape from Dalgliesh's questioning.

I was a bit put off by all the concealment as well, but after thinking more on it I believe it's possible she was simply acting out of her own self-interest. After all, the gun used to shoot Ronald Callender was hers, and she and Miss Leaming were the only ones who knew the truth, or most of it. I can see how explaining the truth of what happened would not only have sounded completely implausible and been impossible to verify, but wouldn't have served 'justice.'


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G Hodges (glh1) | 30 comments Cordelia couldn't prove that Ronald killed his son, so that basically hobbles her. And it would be difficult to prove Miss Leaming killed Ronald because it was her gun and would be a she said/she said situation. Why would Miss Leaming take the gun from Cordelia as she entered the house if not to frame Cordelia for shooting Ronald? It was a beautifully written book (as always with James), but it was all too tidy in the end, I think. Dalgliesh still comes across, in his short time on paper in this book, as the most admirable character. Some people have Mr. Darcy, I have Adam Dalgliesh, so perhaps I am biased.


Leslie | 1663 comments G wrote: "... And it would be difficult to prove Miss Leaming killed Ronald because it was her gun and would be a she said/she ..."

I disagree - if Cordelia hadn't interfered with the scene, there would have been plenty of forensic evidence to support her statement. I agree that it would have been an awkward situation for her, especially explaining how Miss Leaming took her gun, but her own injuries from getting out of the well would help explain her state of mind upon arriving at the house.


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Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments Agree with you, Leslie. In the end it was Cordelia's idea of justice (revenge-based) that was served and not the public good. I think she was just plain wrong. Although I would have loved it if James had followed that through and produced a series of books with Dalgliesh constantly haunting Cordelia because he knows what she did and wants to prove it... and over time Cordelia gets conscience-stricken about the whole thing. A detective haunted by his or her own wrongdoing would be a fun read.


Carolien (carolien_s) Arpita wrote: "Just an aside. I enjoyed reading most aspects of this book but after reading it I became very depressed by the mood of the book. My 'happy' book to cheer my up was Miss Read's Village Diary. This ..."

I'm another Miss Read fan. I reread her books every few years. They're just so very English.


Carolien (carolien_s) I read An Unsuitable Job years ago and remember enjoying it, but could also not remember anything of the plot. I enjoyed the reread.


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G Hodges (glh1) | 30 comments Jane wrote: "Agree with you, Leslie. In the end it was Cordelia's idea of justice (revenge-based) that was served and not the public good. I think she was just plain wrong. Although I would have loved it if Jam..."

I guess you are both right, but as I said, it's all too tidy with regard to details. Cordelia's emotional state is something else.


Arpita (BagfullofBooks) (bagfullofbooks) | 157 comments This may just be me being dim but why on earth did Sir Ron employ Cordelia to re open an investigation of a murder that he committed? To appear innocent? He could have employed a more experienced private detective , why Cordelia? Because he knew she would be inefficient.


Sharla Jane wrote: "Agree with you, Leslie. In the end it was Cordelia's idea of justice (revenge-based) that was served and not the public good. I think she was just plain wrong. Although I would have loved it if Jam..."

Very interesting idea, Jane. I really liked the brief chemistry between Cordelia and Dalgliesh. Too bad it didn't play out that way. As for the movie as reason for James not writing more on that series that I mentioned earlier, that must have been a figment of someone's imagination.


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Joan | 310 comments Jean-Luke wrote: "I just found these in the back of one of my P.D. James books. Feel free to answer them or just ignore them otherwise.

1. Are you shocked that Cordelia decides to conceal the facts not only of Mark Callandar's death but also fo Ronald Callander's murder? Why does she do it? Adam Dalgliesh speculates that she is lying for the sake of justice and tells her, "Justice. A very dangerous concept, Miss Gray." Do you agree?

2. Cordelia Gray is an inexperienced young private detective while James' other frequent hero, Adam Dalgliesh, is a highly experienced policeman. Are they alike in some ways? How does their relationship to each other change in the course of the novel? "


I actually don't think Cordelia Gray and Adam Dalgliesh are alike in any important ways. Dalgliesh is really a professional detective and a policeman through and through, and he remains so through the years. Although PD James only wrote two Cordelia Gray novels (does anyone know why?), and so we don't know how the character of Gray would have developed, I somehow think she would have remained a clever amateur. I don't think she could function inside Scotland Yard.


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G Hodges (glh1) | 30 comments Joan wrote: "Jean-Luke wrote: "I just found these in the back of one of my P.D. James books. Feel free to answer them or just ignore them otherwise.

1. Are you shocked that Cordelia decides to conceal the fac..."


And that is basically what Dalgliesh said to her about Pryde: he couldn't work in Scotland Yard. Then he reflected and decided maybe the problem was his.


message 39: by Jane (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments Arpita wrote: "This may just be me being dim but why on earth did Sir Ron employ Cordelia to re open an investigation of a murder that he committed? To appear innocent? He could have employed a more experienced p..."

Death wish?


Susan | 606 comments Arpita wrote: "This may just be me being dim but why on earth did Sir Ron employ Cordelia to re open an investigation of a murder that he committed? To appear innocent? He could have employed a more experienced p..."
I think he wanted to appear to be caring so he chose the least qualified detective so they wouldn't find anything. Of course, that idea didn't work out well for him.


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G Hodges (glh1) | 30 comments I think he wanted to find out who changed his sons clothes.


message 42: by Tiffany (last edited Jan 19, 2013 05:09AM) (new)

Tiffany | 6 comments In an interview, James said she decided not to create any more Cordelia stories after the TV showed ruined the character for her. Check the interview out here: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rc...


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Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments Interesting - and she says that ethics are important to her characters.


Leslie | 1663 comments G wrote: "I think he wanted to find out who changed his sons clothes."

I agree - probably he was worried whoever did that could have some knowledge dangerous to him. I wonder whether he planned to eliminate that person & if he could have gone through with it once he found it was Miss Leaming.

I like Jane's idea about the effect that this would have on Cordelia over time. Maybe that is the real reason James didn't write more books about Cordelia!


message 45: by Jane (last edited Jan 19, 2013 08:41AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jane (janesteen) | 91 comments I actually wrote that down in my notebook as a Book Idea, although I've no idea if I'd ever give it a try. The series I'm writing has a heroine who has to deal with a youthful mistake so I'm not sure I'd want to repeat myself.

Anyone know of a mystery series where the hero/heroine has a criminal secret? It MUST have been done.


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Joan | 310 comments Jane wrote: "I actually wrote that down in my notebook as a Book Idea, although I've no idea if I'd ever give it a try. The series I'm writing has a heroine who has to deal with a youthful mistake so I'm not sure I'd want to repeat myself.

Anyone know of a mystery series where the hero/heroine has a criminal secret? It MUST have been done."


Somehow I seem to remember VI Warshawski and Kinsey Milhone breaking laws on a regular basis, but I'm not sure they have something that rises to the level of seriousness of "a criminal secret." Do they?

He's not a series detective, but Tana French's most recent protagonist Scorcher Kennedy decides to pack it in at the end of "Broken Harbor," because he's falsified evidence and doesn't think he can trust himself going forward. (I found Scorcher to be a totally unsympathetic jerk, and I really hope French sticks to her implied promise that we'll never have to hear from him again. :=))


Shera (goodreadscomShera) | 0 comments Jane wrote: "I actually wrote that down in my notebook as a Book Idea, although I've no idea if I'd ever give it a try. The series I'm writing has a heroine who has to deal with a youthful mistake so I'm not su..."

Well, there's Raffles. Bernie the Burglar, Lovejoy, and Rebus (only bent a few laws). I don't know if any of Anne Perry's protagonists have a criminal history but she does.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Leslie wrote: "I guess I like my fictional world to be more black and white, as opposed to the shades of gray that comprise the real world. Just my personal taste."

That's a very honest and admirable feeling. I agree with you. That's my reflex against any villain who has a heartbreaking past...yes, I've been watching a lot of anime.


Luffy (monkey-d-luffy) Someone mentioned that the book was funny? How so?


Sharla Tiffany wrote: "In an interview, James said she decided not to create any more Cordelia stories after the TV showed ruined the character for her. Check the interview out here: https://www.google.ca/url?sa=t&rc......"

Thanks for the link, Tiffany. Clears that question up.


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