2007: 44. A Certain Justice

“Murders do not usually give their victims notice.  This is one death which, however terrible that last second of appalled realization, comes mercifully unburdened with anticipatory terror.  When, on the afternoon of Wednesday, 11 September, Venetia Aldridge stoop up to cross-examine the prosecution’s chief witness in Regina v. Ashe, she had four weeks, four hours and fifty minutes left in her life.”

A Certain Justice, P.D. James

It turns out that the Agatha Christie thing was not just a sick person’s comfort read, but the beginning of a full on mystery phase.  Periodically I go through this thing where I read (and usually re-read) huge swathes of mystery fiction, and it looks like I’m doing it again.  Oh, I’m keeping my hand in with a few chapters of The Brothers Karamazov at night, and I’m carrying around a commuting book by Jane Smiley, but if I am to be honest, it’s all murder all the time around here. 

I have switched over from Christie to P.D. James, and the first book I re-read was A Certain Justice, which tells the story of Venetia Aldridge, the famed defense attorney who is murdered in her chambers shortly after getting an acquittal for a particularly unpleasant young murderer.  The mystery is pretty interesting, and James is a good writer - good enough that her books are practically novels, particularly compared to the charming, but thin Christie I was reading before hand.  Her characters are almost always realistic, particularly her victims, and of course, her detective, the somber and poetic Adam Dagliesh.  If all of the characters have some flaw its that they all have some deep dark secret and some mysterious connection to the others, and well, it would be difficult to plot a good mystery without those elements, so one can’t really complain.

What I really loved about this book, however, was the insight it gave to the world of British law, particularly the mysterious Inns of Court.  The whole thing was fascinating to me, and made me want to read a comparative law book to understand how their defense lawyers can sometimes prosecute, and what is an inn of court as compared to a law firm, and what does it mean to “take the silk” and become Q.C.?  Well, that’s what Wikipedia is for, but I appreciate that James gave me an insight to my own profession, English style.  Loved it.


Recommended for: Fans of mystery fiction that is written as well as any other fiction; people interested in the British legal system;  Scotland yard detectives who are also poets.


Date/Place Completed: 4/2/07; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, Re-read; PD James Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017