Two men lie in a welter of blood in the vestry of St Matthew's Church, Paddington, thier throats brutally slashed. One is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently-resigned Minister of the Crown, the other an alcoholic vagrant. Dalgliesh and his team, set up to investigate crimes of particular sensitivity, are faced with a case of extraordinary complexity as they discover the Berowne family's veneer of prosperous gentility conceals ugly and dangerous secrets.
P. D. James was born in Oxford in 1920 and educated at Cambridge High School for Girls. From 1949 to 1968 she worked in the National Health Service and subsequently in the Home Office, first in the Police Department and later in the Criminal Policy Department. All that experience has been used in her novels.
She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the Royal Society of the Arts and has served as a Governor of the BBC, a member of the Arts Council, where she was Chairman of its Literary Advisory Panel, on the Board of the British Council and as a magistrate in Middlesex and London.
She has won awards for crime writing in Britain, America, Italy and Scandinavia, including the Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Award. She has received honorary degrees from seven British universities, was awarded an OBE in 1983 and was created a life peer in 1991. In 1997 she was elected President of the Society of Authors.
She lives in London and Oxford and has two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.