A Taste for Death (James novel)

A Taste for Death is a 1986 crime novel by the British writer P. D. James, the seventh in the popular Commander Adam Dalgliesh series. The novel won the Silver Dagger in 1986, losing out on the Gold to Ruth Rendell's Live Flesh. It was nominated for a Booker Prize in 1987.[1] The book has been adapted for television and radio.

A Taste for Death
First edition
AuthorP. D. James
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesAdam Dalgliesh #7
GenreCrime, Mystery novel
PublisherFaber and Faber
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback, Paperback)
Pages454 pp (hardback first edition)
823/.914 19
LC ClassPR6060.A467 T3 1986b
Preceded byDeath of an Expert Witness 
Followed byDevices and Desires 

Plot summary

In the dingy vestry of St. Matthew's Church, Paddington, two bodies have been found with their throats slashed. One is an alcoholic vagrant, whereas the other is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown. Poet and Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates one of the most convoluted cases of his career.[2]


The title is drawn from a short poem by A. E. Housman:

Some can gaze and not be sick,
But I could never learn the trick.
There's this to say for blood and breath,
They give a man a taste for death.


In a 1986 book review for The New York Times, Robert B. Parker wrote the book is "graced by one of the most felicitous prose styles I know. Ms. James is simply a wonderful writer."[2] The Sunday Times called it "A cunningly compulsive work... heart-pounding suspense". In a 1986 piece on James by Julian Symons, he notes A Taste for Death "is the longest, most ambitious and the best of Phyllis James's 10 novels."[3]


A television version of the novel was produced for Britain's ITV network in 1988. It starred Roy Marsden as Adam Dalgliesh.


  1. Leader, Zachary (2003). On Modern British Fiction. Oxford University Press. p. 235. ISBN 978-0-199-24933-6.
  2. Parker, Robert B. (November 2, 1986). "Adam Dalgliesh Sees Everything". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  3. Symons, Julian (October 5, 1986). "The Queen of Crime: P. D. James". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved April 7, 2017.
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