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P. D. James--one of the most widely admired writers of detective fiction at work today--gives us a personal, lively exploration of the human appetite for mystery and mayhem, and of those writers who have satisfied it. She examines the genre from top to bottom, beginning with the mysteries at the hearts of such novels as Charles Dickens's Bleak House, and bringing us into the present with such writers as Colin Dexter and Sara Paretsky. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction--and of the detective hero--in recent years.--From publisher description.