I think P.D.James and Dashiell Hammett are worlds apart. I also think Hammett was the better writer by several orders of magnitude. The kind of polite prose the P.D.James is admired for does very little for me. I also think that Josephine Tey was a better P.D. James than P.D. James... in other words, it had been done better before!
I frankly don't understand the politeness thing when everything else in society has moved towards savagery, disorder and rule-bending.
Just my two cents, and not really a literary judgement of James, who is outside the scope of this list.
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