Unnatural Causes

Unnatural Causes (1967) is a detective novel by English crime writer P. D. James.

You may be looking for Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, a 2008 documentary series. For the video-on-demand title, see Clean Break (film).
Unnatural Causes
First edition (UK)
AuthorP. D. James
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesAdam Dalgliesh #3
GenreCrime/Mystery novel
PublisherFaber and Faber
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages236 pp
Preceded byA Mind to Murder 
Followed byShroud for a Nightingale 


While staying with his Aunt Jane in Suffolk, Adam Dalgliesh stumbles across a most bizarre and frightening murder. A local detective novelist, Maurice Seton, becomes himself the subject of investigation when his boat washes ashore with his body inside, with both his hands cut off, seemingly with a meat cleaver. Strangely, the scene of his death is mirrored in a manuscript for the new thriller he was writing.

Literary significance and criticism

"Something of a letdown. The country-house setting and the characterization of the unfortunate criminal are excellently handled, and the powerful ending under rushing waters is both credible and mysterious, but the method of murder as well as its cause is farfetched. Dalgleish has had a tiff with his lover and lets her go out of his life in a psychologically odd instance of inaction."[1] - Catalogue of Crime


  1. Barzun, Jacques and Taylor, Wendell Hertig. A Catalogue of Crime. New York: Harper & Row. 1971, revised and enlarged edition 1989. ISBN 0-06-015796-8

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