British crime writer Ruth Rendell, who has published more than 60 books in a career spanning five decades, was on Thursday in a critical condition in hospital after suffering a stroke, her publisher said.
"She is in hospital under expert care in a critical but stable condition," Hutchinson -- Penguin Random House said in a statement.
The publisher said the best-selling 84-year-old author had suffered a "serious stroke" on January 7.
Rendell is best known for psychological thrillers delving into criminal minds as well as the successful television adaptation "The Ruth Rendell Mysteries". Her work has been translated into 25 languages.
Jean-Claude Berline, the French editor of her next book, said that Rendell "has been in a coma for several days and it seems that it is irreversible".
Rendell's fictional creation, the sensitive Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford, featured in her first novel "From Doon to Death" (1964) and throughout her career.
The elderly detective only retired in "The Vault" (2011) but she continued writing and her latest book, "The Girl Next Door", came out in 2014.
She was appointed Baroness Rendell of Babergh by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997, becoming a member of the House of Lords.
She has been awarded four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger from England's prestigious Crime Writers' Association, as well as three Edgar Awards from the Mystery Writers of America among many other accolades.
She is a close friend of fellow British crime writer P.D. James, who died in 2014 at the age of 94.
Berline said that after P.D. James's death, Rendell was "the last grande dame of the police thriller".
Rendell was born Ruth Grasemann in 1930 into a family of teachers. Her mother was born in Sweden and brought up in Denmark and her father was English.
She started out as a journalist, writing feature copy for a local paper, the Chigwell Times, but was forced to resign after reportedly inventing stories.
She married Don Rendell in 1953 and two had a son. Her husband died in 1999 from prostate cancer.