Venetia Aldridge is a top notch criminal lawyer. She hardly ever looses a case and is able to find the holes in any argument. Her personal life isn't so rosy, however. She is basically estranged from her daughter and considered a problem by her co-workers. Her life really begins to unravel when her daughter announces her engagement - to a man Venetia has recently gotten off for murder. But when Venetia is found dead in her office two days later, it's up to Adam Dalgliesh and his team to figure out who killed her. And with all these motives and suspects, it won't be easy.
I'd heard much about P.D. James, but this was the first time I'd actually read one of her books. I found the writing style engaging and would have a hard time putting it down once I started. On the other hand, I'd have a hard time picking it up again. The beginning especially seems to give us too much background on our characters, stuff we don't need to learn until later if at all. This really slowed the story down for me.
The more I got into it, the better I enjoyed it, however. There were some nice twists along the way with an intriguing sub-plot. The last couple of chapters did seem a little anti-climatic considering what had gone before, but I was surprised by who the killer turned out to be. Using multiple view points greatly added to the story most of the time, although it did confuse me some as far as timeline goes.
I can understand why P.D. James has such a fine reputation. She can paint a picture with words like few other writers currently writing. While she may be a tad too slow for my normal taste, I'm certainly glad to see what all the talk is about. Her reputation is well earned.
on 19 November 2000
P.D. James purists may argue that "Devices and Desires" is her best work to date, but "A Certain Justice" is certainly a close second! Granted, while James seems to devote less time to her leading man, Adam Dalgliesh, she nevertheless succeeds in making a more complete story--concentrating more on other characters and events (almost as if she's saying "you already know enough about Adam"!). Still, Commander Dalgliesh is in command and it is through his brilliance that the case is solved (or in this case, "cases"!).
Basically, Venetia Aldridge, a brilliant, up-and-coming criminal lawyer is found murdered (there can be no other explanation). As Scotland Yard becomes more involved (after all, it is a murder investigation and the victim is quite prominent in London legal circles), facts begin to emerge that picture a not-so-ordinary past. Venetia is no angel (not yet, anyway!)--there are suspects a-plenty and the motives run rampant, from her cleaning lady to colleagues in and out of court and to her own family members. She has a past that certainly has cut some crucial corners. She is also a woman with an attitude--an attitude that seemed not to care about making enemies. she is also the mother of a teenaged daughter, and their relationship, too, has been a bit tumultuous--dicey at best.
Venetia is found stabbed to death at her desk, and a barrister's wig placed, askew, on her head. Her body is soaked in blood. A convenient suspect is hurriedly identified (a sociopath whom she'd successfully defended in a murder trial a few years back!) but, alas, he comes up with an alibi and Dalgliesh must look to others, especially some of her jealous colleagues, for his culprit. James' plot is, indeed, convoluted and for the casual reader may be hard to follow. After all, she hasn't been labeled "queen of crime" for nothing. Trying to follow the plot is more like trying to find the path in a maze, but that is also probably one of the main attractions for a James novel: it's not simple. At the same time, she painstakingly develops her characters, who, simply, are more than one dimensional. While Venetia, on the surface, reflects an organized, planned concept of justice and law and order, James shows us another side--one of justice running amok, of cruelty in the name of the law, and of fair play being something that seems not to exist. And this road to certain justice is one in a state of disrepair, confusion, and blind leads. It is not without its rewards, however, and by the chilling final-chapters' climax, it is, once again, a jury victory for James!.
Having already heard Michael Jayston read P.D. James 'Death in Holy Orders' I fully expected an exemplary reading here & was not disappointed.
He is clear & well paced, avoiding accents unless absolutely necessary & even then keeping theatrics out of it.
The story here is unusual for a detective novel. It takes 11 chapters before the murder is committed & another one before inspector Dalgleish appears. Not exactly rushing things is she?!
Yet this allows for a superbly rounded back story & lots of detail in the context. In truth I found this lengthy build up the best part of the tale. The victim is a pretty ruthless & self absorbed career woman but she is not an unsympathetic character by any means. A rare successful female in a world dominated by privileged & arrogant men who hardly welcome her with open arms.
Used & given the cold shoulder she finds herself in a desperate situation with her stroppy daughter & the nutter she wants to marry, (who just so happens to have been pronounced not guilty to the murder of his aunt thanks to her mother!),.
Once the murder takes place things get a bit bogged down for a bit & I was grateful for this being read as I think I may have given up if I had been reading it myself. However once the pace picks up again the story moves along nicely and things are slowly revealed in an enjoyable manner.
Dalgleish is a likeable enough detective and avoids many of the done to death cliche's that everyone seems to use these days. However his presence in this story was perhaps a bit less than I would have hoped for.
This never really gets into top gear for pace but this has been traded for huge characterisation & plot depth. This makes for a nice change from the usual body a chapter style being touted at the moment.
The middle section crawl means this is not quite up there with the best but if it's the audiobook you fancy then give it a go. Jayston is a superb reader whom you rarely think of when listening because he doesn't overdo anything yet keeps the reading clear & interesting.
I did enjoy this overall & would recommend it for a few long dark evenings of relaxed & pleasant listening.
I love audio books to listen to on long journeys, so long as they are relatively easy to follow. I recently tried to listen to another BBC audio book which was a Cadfael mystery, but kept getting completely lost with a very complicated script, whilst driving. This audio book is narrated by the brilliant voice of Michael Jayston and whilst it can be complicated in parts, I found having only one voice helped me follow most of the plot whilst driving.
It is a murder mystery which firstly centres on the murder of Venetia Aldridge, a top notch but arrogant Barrister. The mystery of her death is compounded by the life she left behind. There were many who had a motive to kill her. Many of her work colleagues despised her arrogance, her friends, ex lovers and her daughter had hated her virtually from birth. When she is murdered Adam Dalgliesh is called in to try and de-tangle her life and try and find the murderer. It is clear from the investigation that she had made many enemies in her life so many had a motive to kill her. The investigation gets even more complicated to solve when a second murder takes place and the author lays out a tangled web of deceit to hide the identity of the killer until near the end.
The audio book is 15 hours long and in parts it is very slow and tedious. The length does allow many of the characters to be developed and as they develop, what at first appeared to be simplistic characterisation by the author, then turns out to allow very complex and multi dimensional characters to be built up. This makes solving the mystery even harder. A Certain Justice is my first P D James (audio) book and I found it very good. I had no clue as to who the murderer was until near the end. The complexity of the novel is such that it keeps you guessing and baffled. I would have liked more written on the Dalgliesh character, but I believe if you listen/read the first novels his character is built up in those books.
Would I buy another P D James audio book? The answer is probably yes. It was a great book to listen to and allow your imagination to develop the pictures painted by the author. I found it too long and could have been abridged slightly without losing too much of significance. I listened to it on several long journeys in my car. I enjoyed it and that it was a great plot that was difficult to figure out so you did not get bored listening to it.
The story itself is intelligent and well thought out, as almost all stories from P. D. James are.
I would, though, almost certainly have given up had it not been for the excellent vocal talents of Michael Jayston.
There are parts of the story when time seems to move very slowly, and this is true perhaps at the start of the story as much as anywhere. There is, of course, a lot to take in, but I feel that - sometimes - a little more action and a little less description would have been better in some places.
In many ways PDJ is an author from another time - thanks to the fast paced editing and movie techniques of modern cinema we are all becoming used to a very different way of taking our reading on board. This is no bad thing, if you accept that tastes change, but I fear that some great writers will find an ever smaller audience because of the difficulty that many people will face in reading something as long and 'full' of prose as this book.
I'm not suggesting that this is a 'bad' story by any means, it isn't, but I think the CD does a very, very good job of making a very densely packed book into something readily accessible for most people.
In short - I almost certainly would have given up on the book, and it was the CD presentation that enabled me to enjoy this.
Being spread over 12 discs and being over 15 1/2 hours long, this (A Certain Justice (BBC Audio)) is a mighty collection.
Most of my audio collections are either abridged plays or dramatisations so this was my first step into the realm of the unabridged (large) audiobook. When reading, I love long books and 1200 pages is considered to be nothing unusual, but 15 hours of listening????
I should never have worried. P.D.James is described by the Mail on Sunday as '....one of the national treasures of British fiction....' and I cannot deny that statement. Her books are always well researched and are told in a non-emotional way that holds the reader's attention to the storyline and not to one character's moods or feelings. I found the time went past very quickly and, at one stage, even listened for 5 hours non-stop. I cannot compliment the reader, Michael Jayston, enough for keeping me so enthralled - an excellent reading.
The story of the death of a distinguished barrister has been done by many writers, but none can tell a tale of this type as well at this author. The twists are ingenious and the way the book is written is beautiful as well as being impressive.
I have read a number of the Adam Dalgliesh stories and, probably like many review readers, have seen the TV productions (of which 'A Certain Justice' was one). In my view, this story and it's reading is up amongst the best.
Can I recommend 'A Certain Justice' ? - A Certain Yes (although one may need a few stamina bars) - A definite 5 stars
on 1 December 2009
Having read many of the more recent thriller writers, (including the well known forensic 'genre') I was totally gripped by this book, not only by the story but with the realisation that I was reading a writer whose command of the English language is formidable and that my previous reads were OK but nothing in comparison with the sheer enjoyment of PD James's skill. I shall be reading all her books now.!
I didn't know who PD James was, or even that the writer was female, I didn't know who Commander Adam Dalgliesh was, but thought I'd give this audio book a go.
I'd just trawled through an Aurelio Zen 9 CD story, which was tough going to start with but picked up. This is a 12 CD set!!! 12 CD's! It takes about 15 hrs to get through. I listened to it whilst creating 3D graphics on the PC.
Unlike the previous audio book I mentioned, this was easily accesible. It starts with a courtroom battle and then branches into the chambers comings and goings. This goes on for chapters, revolving around Venetia Aldridge, and her skill and future...and then just when you are really enjoying all this...she's murdered!
It is a long haul, but it's very good. The narrator is superb,you easily distinguish the different characters he makes voices for, and he's very easy to listen to.
At 12 CD's I don't know how easily you would listen to it all again, but it's definatley worth an initial hearing.
on 19 October 2012
PD James can write well. The problem is she writes too much in a quaint Dickensian way which I am sure pleases many of her fans. A simple walk across Fleet Street to an Inn of Court doesn't have to become a travelogue. I don't want to have research rattles shaken at me. Research needs to be worn more lightly. Descriptive writing is her forte but sometimes its long-windedness gets in the way of the story. I didn't find this book very satisfactory and the plotting was rather plodding. But setting aside my carping about over-writing, I have three concerns:
First is the character of Commander Adam Dagleish. This rank in the Met is the equivalent of an Assistant Chief Constable. It is a strategic role and largely 'non-operational' except in the most serious of circumstances. But here we have a Met Commander waltzing down to Dorset, having a picnic by the sea and then doing his "Evening all, could you answer a few questions" stuff. What's his huge army of staff doing or wondering? It's not credible.
Second is characterisation. Describing someone well (as James does)is not the same as getting beneath the skin of the person. The reason we like Morse and Wallender is they struggle with both the mystery in front of them and with their own human frailties. With James I find the characters barely rise above well-described pieces of cardboard. I yearned for more depth.
Third is the writing style. It is very even and this is both its strength and weakness. A long letter written by a character is in the same descriptive tone as the rest of the book. In other words, it's PD James through and through and not a 'letter' at all. Dialogue is often long with few interruptions as the characters talk the story generally in the same tone. I wanted more change of pace and variety of style and, for me, it wasn't there
When eminent London Barrister Venetia Aldridge is found dead in her chambers, Commander Adam Dalgleish is called in to investigate a murder with no shortage of suspects. Could the answer lie in Aldridge's personal life; something to do with the relationship between her daughter and a man she recently successfully defended for murder, or in her professional life; either some argument in chambers or a case she was involved in?
In this rather well constructed mystery, PD James first announces the murder then introduces us, at a leisurely pace, to a whole host of suspects and explores their motives. Then the murder occurs and she leads us through the detailed investigation headed by Dalgleish. The investigation winds along, with much exploration of both suspects and the investigators characters until the conclusion, where all is explained.
The tone of the book is leisurely, and the emphasis is on character as much as on the mystery. Even the most minor characters are well fleshed out and drawn, making them all believable and interesting. The mystery is interesting and the details of the investigation fascinating. As with Henning Mankell's Wallander books, James is not afraid to show Police work for what it really is, often boring days of wading through paperwork and getting nowhere.
James is a natural story teller, and her finely crafted sentences and love of language really make this book a joy. I must confess there was a couple of times when I went scurrying for my dictionary, and listening to this has introduced me to some new and wonderful words!
My one complaint would be the solution of the mystery of who killed Aldridge. After being lead up several blind alleys (I had, at some point or other, thought that every character was the murderer except for the one who it turned out to be) the solution came as a complete surprise. However, the final revelation was rather offhand and I could not really see how Dalgleish got there. It's a minor quibble though, as the rest of the book and the clearing up of all the subsequent mysteries and puzzles is so well done.
Michael Jayston's delivery is masterful. His voice is well modulated and without bothering with lots of funny accents and pitches, he manages to make each of the myriad of characters sound different and separate with the minimum of effort. It is a real joy to listen to as his gravitas laden vice draws you deeper and deeper into the tale.
At 12 discs, and 15 hours, this is quite a lengthy listen, but well worth it. I was enthralled, and couldn't wait for the next opportunity to pick up the story.