british crime fiction
Ruth Rendell and PD James: giants of detective fiction
Rendell and her great friend James, who died last November, brought the genre critical respect, and they not only wrote about the law – they changed it, too
By Mark Lawson

A lovely appreciation of two giants of crime fiction.

For five decades, the two women were the George Eliot and Jane Austen of the homicidal novel: different minds and style but equal talent. They were responsible, in joint enterprise, for saving British detective fiction from the position, after the era of Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers, in which its popularity with readers was matched only by its unpopularity with most serious literary critics.

“The satisfying thing about TV crime shows is that they offer a sense of closure. The unsatisfying thing is how much of life they must leave out to do it. Like, history. Whether you’re talking CSI or Sherlock, crime shows tend to take place in a weirdly hermetic universe where the characters may change — like in True Detective — yet the historical moment in which they live remains largely irrelevant background.

One exception is Foyle’s War, a terrifically entertaining British series about a masterful policeman, detective chief superintendent Christopher Foyle, that’s set during and shortly after World War II. The eighth and final season just ended in the UK and is now available — on disk and via streaming — from Acorn TV, where you can also see the preceding 25 episodes. I should warn you. If you start at the beginning, you’ll probably find yourself watching them all.”

- John Powers, Fresh Air critic at-large 

Fair Warning: Watch One ‘Foyle’s War’ Episode, And You’ll Want To Watch Them All