Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh Series #1)

Cover Her Face (Adam Dalgliesh Series #1)

by P. D. James


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The first in the series of scintillating mysteries to feature cunning Scotland Yard detective, Adam Dalgliesh from P.D. James, the bestselling author hailed by People magazine as “the greatest living mystery writer.”

Sally Jupp was a sly and sensuous young woman who used her body and her brains to make her way up the social ladder. Now she lies across her bed with dark bruises from a strangler’s fingers forever marring her lily-white throat. Someone has decided that the wages of sin should be death...and it is up to Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh to find who that someone is.

Cover Her Face is P.D. James’ delightful debut novel, an ingeniously plotted mystery that immediately placed her among the masters of suspense.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780743219570
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: 05/28/2001
Series: Adam Dalgliesh Series , #1
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 118,191
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

P.D. James is the author of twenty previous books, most of which have been filmed and broadcast on television in the United States and other countries. She spent thirty years in various departments of the British Civil Service, including the Police and Criminal Law Departments of Great Britain's Home Office. She has served as a magistrate and as a governor of the BBC. In 2000 she celebrated her eightieth birthday and published her autobiography, Time to Be in Earnest. The recipient of many prizes and honors, she was created Baroness James of Holland Park in 1991 and was inducted into the International Crime Writing Hall of Fame in 2008. She lives in London and Oxford.


London, England

Date of Birth:

August 3, 1920

Place of Birth:

Oxford, England


Attended the Cambridge High School for Girls from 1931 to 1937 and later took evening classes in hospital administration

Read an Excerpt


Exactly three months before the killing at Martingale Mrs Maxie gave a dinner-party. Years later, when the trial was a half-forgotten scandal and the headlines were yellowing on the newspaper lining of cupboard drawers, Eleanor Maxie looked back on that spring evening as the opening scene of tragedy. Memory, selective and perverse, invested what had been a perfectly ordinary dinner-party with an aura of foreboding and unease. It became, in retrospect, a ritual gathering under one roof of victim and suspects, a staged preliminary to murder. In fact not all the suspects had been present. Felix Hearne, for one, was not at Martingale that week-end. Yet, in her memory, he too sat at Mrs Maxie’s table, watching with amused, sardonic eyes the opening antics of the players.

At the time, of course, the party was both ordinary and rather dull. Three of the guests, Dr Epps, the vicar and Miss Liddell, Warden of St Mary’s Refuge for Girls, had dined together too often to expect either novelty or stimulation from each other’s company. Catherine Bowers was unusually silent and Stephen Maxie and his sister, Deborah Riscoe, were obviously concealing with difficulty their irritation that Stephen’s first free week-end from the hospital for over a month should have coincided with a dinner-party. Mrs Maxie had just employed one of Miss Liddell’s unmarried mothers as house parlourmaid and the girl was waiting at table for the first time. But the air of constraint which burdened the meal could hardly have been caused by the occasional presence of Sally Jupp who placed the dishes in front of Mrs Maxie and removed the plates with a dextrous efficiency which Miss Liddell noted with complacent approval.

It is probable that at least one of the guests was wholly happy. Bernard Hinks, the vicar of Chadfleet, was a bachelor, and any change from the nourishing but unpalatable meals produced by his housekeeping sister -- who was never herself tempted away from the vicarage to dine -- was a relief which left small room for the niceties of social intercourse. He was a gentle, sweet-faced man who looked older than his fifty-four years and who had a reputation for vagueness and timidity except on points of doctrine. Theology was his main, almost his sole, intellectual interest and if his parishioners could not always understand his sermons they were happy enough to accept this as sure evidence of their vicar’s erudition. It was, however, accepted in the village that you could get both advice and help from the vicarage and that, if the former were sometimes a little muddled, the latter could generally be relied upon.

To Dr Charles Epps the dinner meant a first-class meal, a couple of charming women to talk to and a restful interlude from the trivialities of a country practice. He was a widower who had lived in Chadfleet for thirty years and knew most of his patients well enough to predict with accuracy whether they would live or die. He believed that there was little any doctor could do to influence the decision, that there was wisdom in knowing when to die with the least inconvenience to others and distress to oneself and that much medical progress only prolonged life for a few uncomfortable months to the greater glory of the patient’s doctor. For all that, he had less stupidity and more skill than Stephen Maxie gave him credit for and few of his patients faced the inevitable before their time. He had attended Mrs Maxie at the births of both her children and was doctor and friend to the husband in so far as Simon Maxie’s bemused brain could any longer know or appreciate friendship. Now he sat at the Maxie table and forked up chicken soufflé with the air of a man who had earned his dinner and has no intention of being infected by other people’s moods.

“So you’ve taken Sally Jupp and her baby, Eleanor?” Dr Epps was never inhibited from stating the obvious. “Nice young things both of them. Rather jolly for you to have a baby about the house again.”

“Let us hope Martha agrees with you,” said Mrs Maxie dryly. “She needs help desperately, of course, but she’s very conservative. She may feel the situation more than she says.”

“She’ll get over it. Moral scruples soon give way when it’s a case of another pair of hands at the kitchen sink.” Dr Epps dismissed Martha Bultitaft’s conscience with a wave of his podgy arm. “She’ll be eating out of the baby’s hand before long, anyway. Jimmy’s an appealing child whoever his father was.”

At this point Miss Liddell felt that the voice of experience should be heard.

“I don’t think, Doctor, that we should talk about the problem of these children too lightly. Naturally we must show Christian charity” -- here Miss Liddell gave a half bow in the direction of the vicar as if acknowledging the presence of another expert and apologizing for the intrusion into his field -- “but I can’t help feeling that society as a whole is getting too soft with these girls. The moral standards of the country will continue to fall if these children are to receive more consideration than those born in wedlock. And it’s happening already! There’s many a poor, respectable mother who doesn’t get half the fussing and attention which is lavished on some of these girls.”

She looked around the table, flushed and began eating again vigorously. Well, what if they did all look surprised? It had needed saying. It was her place to say it. She glanced at the vicar as if enlisting his support but Mr Hinks, after his first puzzled glance at her, was concentrating on his dinner. Miss Liddell, baulked of an ally, thought irritably that the dear vicar was just a little greedy over his food! Suddenly she heard Stephen Maxie speaking.

“These children are no different, surely, than any others except that we owe them more. I can’t see that their mothers are so remarkable either. After all, how many people accept in practice the moral code which they despise these girls for breaking?”

Table of Contents

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Cover Her Face 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Quiero_Que_Lo_Lea More than 1 year ago
The great thing about PD Jame's mysteries is that it is possible for the reader to formulate a conclusion - it isn't some obscure solution that only the detective present could formulate - nor is it served on a silver platter.

The same is true for this elaborate story...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful detective writing. There is simply no one currently writing who can compare with P. D. James. I encourage anyone who tries even one of her books to read them all...each is as good as the next.
MerleF More than 1 year ago
Very gripping story; many interesting characters; good plot. Somewhat predictable but many surprises along the way.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was my first time reading this author but it won't be my last
Anonymous 8 months ago
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 capture the feeling of Christies mysteries, and P.D. James does a great job of that. But I found the pace slow as she spends a long time building up the backgroud before we get to the crime. The puzzle was also not as complex as Christie and it was easy to guess who the culprit was. Inspector Dalgliesh was an excellent sleuth, as the hints to his background were enought to be intriguing but not enough to answer all the readers questions. Which would make you want to read on through the rest of the series to find out more about him. On this narration, the reader did a good job, but not an excellent one.
mkschoen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A bit Christie-ish, country-house murder etc. And Dalgliesh isn't quite the stuffy, cerebral detective that he turns into later (at least I find him stuffy -- don't quite see what all those women see in him).
sarah-e on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am of two minds about this book. On one hand, I enjoyed it - it did not stir me up much, but I did read it quickly and I did find it thought provoking. On the other hand, I am confused by what this book really was. If it's a detective novel, I missed anything compelling in Dalgliesh's character - no quirks, no fastidiousness, the only detail I think I can give about him is that he likes plain English foods. If it's a whodunnit, I prefer a mystery that presents facts plainly and doesn't scream at me to look this way! and now this way! and you think it's this person! and now this one! - I want to figure it out based on the clues given, not guess at who it is because of how the writer set it up.I will read another Dalgliesh book before deciding if I'm in or out of this series - none of the problems I had with the book were distracting enough to keep me from enjoying it.
debavp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This may have suffered as being "the book in the car" as I read it very inconsistently over several months. I know it did suffer because I had seen the later installments of PBS' Mystery and could not help but see Marsden as Dalgliesh. Overall as I continue to read the books I'm hoping that will not be as distracting as with this first book. I do feel that James went quite 'round in circlels with this story and really did not develop the Inspector as well as she could have. If I had not seen some of the tv bits I don't think I would have moved on to the next book.But it did have an ending I wouldn't have predicted at anypoint while I was reading:) That was a pleasant, unexpected twist.
jasonlf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A classic detective novel. With all the positives and negatives that go with that. In some ways the first fifty pages -- before the murder -- were a better written, more interesting novel than what followed which relied on the typical devices of a locked room, an English manor house, and a solution that ultimately involved three different people involved in different aspects of the murder -- all unbeknownst to each other -- in a manner that strains credulity, to say the least. That said, I did keep reading with interest to the end and the coda, like the opening, renewed interest in the characters and their relationships.
kjcameron on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's interesting seeing James' style evolve. Over the years she has become more fluid in her storyline, but has stayed true to her attention to the intricacies of each character she creates -and there are always many in each book.
NellieMc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read all of the Adam Daigliesh mysteries in one fell swoop and am glad I did. First, they are classic British mysteries all well-deserving of the respect P.D. James has earned for them and all are a good read. However, what is interesting is to watch the author develop her style from the early ones to the later ones. And, in fact, A Shroud for a Nightingale and The Black Tower (the fourth and fifth in the series) is where she crosses the divide. The later books have much more character development -- both for the players and the detectives -- make Dalgleish more rounded and are generally much more than a good mystery yarn -- they're fine novels that happen to be mysteries. The first three books (Cover Her Face, A Mind to Murder, Unnatural Causes) are just that much more simplistic. But read any or all -- she's a great writer and they are definitely worth the time.
BooksForDinner on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
6/3 - 6/7Always wanted to read a PDJ, figured I'd start from the beginning... I enjoyed this book and will definitely read more as I love mysteries, however:** Spoiler Alert**I'm not one to try and solve mysteries as i read them... occasionally i guess them, but I can't be bothered to keep all the clues tallied in my head as i go... but there are a couple clues in the final 'I've gathered you all here' scene that Dalgliesh divulges that there is no way the reader could have known about,specifically Proctors fake right hand?!? How were we supposed to know that, and in turn surmise that he was the gloved hand in the barn? And there was no evidence at all against Mrs. Maxie, she just confessed... I pretty much assumed by the end that it was her by process of elimination, but only because as the book goes along, James tells you who it can't be...When I learn the murderer at the end, the fun for me is to say "Ohhh, of course....". On her website, James says one of her main rules of writing mysteries is to play by the 'fair play' rule, so i am assuming this shouldn't happen again.All in all, though, it was fun and of course this is one of the all time masters of the craft writing her very first book...I will look forward to another to see her develop.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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 spoilersSally Jupp is a very attractive, unwed mother who has been taken on as a maid in the Maxie household. Sally has come from a home for unwed mothers and lives at the house with her infant son. Every year the church holds an annual celebration (a fete); this year, the day after the proceedings finds Sally dead at unknown hands, behind locked doors. Adam Dalgliesh of Scotland Yard must figure out who killed her, but there are many motives and many suspects to rule out before he can do his job.As I said, an awesome book, one I very highly recommend. Mystery readers, especially those who enjoy a good British whodunit, will really enjoy this one. It is NOT a cozy, so prepare to spend some time with it!
idiotgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kindle. P. D. James inventing herself as a writer and Adam Dagliesch as a character. Her first book. A fun read. Didn't knock me over. You could hear the gears of a writer figuring out how to do this. Trying out various narrative techniqus and conceits. But I would be thrilled to have this be a first novel I had written. Have I said before that I love P. D. James.
eleanor_eader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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, their actions, opinions and dialogue very human¿ if a little dated, in places. The Maxies have taken in Sally Jupp, single mother, and recent resident of a refuge for women in similar `trouble¿, to be their maid. Sally proves to be ambitious, secretive and a trouble maker. When she is found dead, the family reaction is more affront than surprise. But the motive that seems obvious dangles just out of the reach of provability¿ only painstaking assessment of the family and guests¿ movements and characters will winnow out the culprit. Good old fashioned detective work, in other words.I¿ve read these out of order over the years, just now coming to the first book, and was surprised to find it so cohesive. It isn¿t perfect; for a start this is written to be a puzzler, not a gripping page-turner, but James¿ writing skills cover up any small flaws; she¿s no less competent a storyteller at book one than book fourteen.
ponsonby on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As the first of PD James' Dalgleish books this is leaner and sparer than the more spacious later books, with less about the police and more about the characters. The descriptions of settings are also less indulgent. Plot-wise it is fairly straightforward. An enjoyable read though.
AnnieMod on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first of the Adam Dalgliesh mysteries by P. D. James. England a few years after the Second World War -- the rich are still around living with the maids and everything else. A refuge for unmarried mothers. And a young woman - Sally Jupp - that lived in the latter and went to the first to work. This is how the story begins - or at least that's how it begins before Sally is found dead.What follows is a standard mystery which reveals a lot not only for the dead but also for everyone in the house and in the village and unearths secrets that had been buried for ages. It's well written and it does make you feel the time but it is very obvious an early work - Dalgliesh sounds just as any other inspector and there is nothing special that makes him such a likable character later on. And something with the things that were happening off the pages was not exactly right - in a few places it sounded almost as if James could not find how to tie the things together without a revelation that should have been mentioned much earlier. But at the same time there are enough clues to lead you through the book.Overall a good start for the series and I do not sorry for reading it - I had meant to read the series in order for ages and I had never read this one before.3 and a half stars out of 5 and a good book for starting the year.
MusicMom41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book years ago and she stilled fooled me this second time around. She has a diabolical device to completely throw you off so the ending becomes a big surprise¿except once you know, you remember several ¿hints¿ along the way that you should have picked up on. P.D. James really knows how to tell a good mystery story that also is a good novel with character development not just a ¿puzzle.¿
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young single mother stirs up trouble in a village and especially in the household where she is employed as a serving maid. It surprises none when she turns up dead. Now Dalgliesh is on the case. The tension mounts as he digs around for the facts.This story was an enjoyable mystery, though I quibble with the character resolutions at the end. I do think the author played "fair" with the reader. I won't be keeping it, as I have no desire to read it again. The author never lets us get close enough to Dalgliesh to enjoy him or even root for him.
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