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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 12 August 2015
The sad thing is, I didn't care about any of the characters. Of course the background is carefully researched, the story intricately plotted, and all the characters described in minute, excessive detail - down to the colour of their socks, their taste in food, the furniture in their rooms - but that's just it; it's all surface with PD James (a great deal of surface) but nothing which takes the reader inside any of the characters, to sympathise with them, feel their emotions, so that you want to read on because you care about what happens to them. This book was easy to put down, a labour to finish. The main detective, Dalgleish, is especially dull - a cardboard cut-out. And she moves the other characters around like pawns on a chessboard, picking up each one with faint distaste, as though she despises them all. So why should I care about them if she doesn't? I know these books are seen as classics, but they don't work for me - not this one, anyway. Sorry.
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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.
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on 3 March 2017
A very intelligent and well plotted book as I've come to expect from PD James. Recommended. Best read in chronological order, warning, they can be addictive.
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on 17 September 2017
very satisfied
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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
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on 9 November 2012
This was the first PD James book I have read and I found it enthralling. The writers rich use of the English language made me very envious and contributed greatly to the way the story gripped me. I will undoubtedly read more.
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on 2 March 2015
This is another magnificent read for anyone who likes crime fiction.Please read PD James you will not be disappointed.
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on 1 November 2015
cannot remember buying it
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on 30 May 2017
James and Dalglish. A great team!
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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!.
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