A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh Mystery Series #10)

A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh Mystery Series #10)

It begins, dramatically enough, with a trial for murder. The distinguished criminal lawyer Venetia Aldridge is defending Garry Ashe on charges of having brutally killed his aunt. For Aldridge the trial is mainly a test of her courtroom skills, one more opportunity to succeed–and she does. But now murder is in the air. The next victim will be Aldridge herself, stabbed to death at her desk in her Chambers in the Middle Temple, a bloodstained wig on her head. Enter Commander Adam Dalgliesh and his team, whose struggle to investigate and understand the shocking events cannot halt the spiral into more horrors, more murders…

A Certain Justice is P.D. James at her strongest.  In her first foray into the strange closed world of the Law Courts and the London legal community, she has created a fascinating tale of interwoven passion and terror. As each character leaps into unforgettable life, as each scene draws us forward into new complexities of plot, she proves yet again that no other writer can match her skill in combining the excitement of the classic detective story with the richness of a fine novel. In its subtle portrayal of morality and human behavior, A Certain Justice will stand alongside Devices and Desires and A Taste for Death as one of P.D. James’s most important, accomplished and entertaining works.


  • Hardcover: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; 1st American trade ed edition (November 25, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375401091
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375401091
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (238 customer reviews)
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  1. Venetia Aldridge, a bitchy, brilliant criminal attorney with a talent for getting guilty clients off the hook, is brutally murdered in her Chambers. Once again, Commander Adam Dalgliesh steps in to unravel a mystery that, as is the case in almost all James’ finest novels, lies buried in the past.
    Though A CERTAIN JUSTICE is not P.D. James’ most intricately plotted or fast-paced novel (that distinction belongs to the brilliant SHROUD FOR A NIGHTINGALE), it’s a great throwback to her early days, during which some of her most compelling books were written. The central character, Venetia, nearly upstages Dalgliesh here, and with good reason: she is probably the most enthralling, fascinating character James has ever created. She is eminently respectable and thoroughly unpleasant, and because of this she has naturally surrounded herself with a gallery of suspects, all of whom have reason to do her in. The way in which James reveals the true murderer, however, is nothing short of brilliant. In fact, the entire plot is a marvel of construction, with every clue scrupulously laid out for the reader. As always, however, the relatively simple details of the crime belie the emotional and psychological turmoil boiling beneath the surface.
    What distinguishes A CERTAIN JUSTICE from her more recent books is the quality of the writing. James’ technique is as stylish and literate as ever, but so much more readable; she wastes few words on unnecessary details about architecture (as one reviewer aptly pointed out below). The novel is much shorter than A TASTE FOR DEATH, DEVICES AND DESIRES, or ORIGINAL SIN, fine mysteries that were undermined by excessive rambling. At under four hundred pages, A CERTAIN JUSTICE is leaner and cleaner, and also has a thrust and energy lacking in its predecessors. This is truly P.D. James at the peak of her form–an exquisite, beautifully crafted novel that also shows a tremendous amount of grace and restraint.

  2. No reason for me to duplicate what other reviews have adequately described.

    The book is well written, engaging, and filled with interesting characters.

    But the ending is no better than the work of an amateur.

    I disagree with other reviewers on a couple items. A few reviewers say

    that the writing is excessively descriptive. Several reviewers say that

    she dwells too long with character descriptions which are irrelevant to

    the plot. WRT the character descriptions, I entirely disagree. If any

    character were described less, these same reviewers would be complaining

    that the characters are stereotypes or shallow. These characters are

    described as succinctly as possible if they are to be interesting and

    believable. Most contemporary writers use the same number of pages to

    describe uninteresting and unbelievable characters. The only other

    descriptions which I think anybody could complain about would be her

    descriptions of “rooms” (furniture, etc.). If you count up the pages, I

    don’t think they would add up to much. I treat these descriptions just

    like observing a room in real life. I’m a typical man who doesn’t pay

    much attention to “interior decoration”– so I read through these

    paragraphs quickly and don’t pay them much attention. I respect why

    James writes the paragraphs though. Many readers are very interested in

    interior decoration, and James herself obviously is. I wouldn’t want a

    book to be dummied down on my account.Read more ›

  3. P.D. James has come a very long way from her 1962 debut novel COVER HER FACE, and her narrative skill has become increasingly powerful as the years have gone by. A CERTAIN JUSTICE is indeed a showcase for that skill, for her uncanny knack for creating believable characters seemingly out of midair, and for the grace and power of her prose. And it is extremely easy to become absorbed in the novel: although the paperback edition runs well over four hundred pages, I wolfed it down in less than twenty-four hours.

    A CERTAIN JUSTICE concerns Venetia Aldridge, a criminal lawyer renowned for her skill at defense. But for all her professional renown, Venetia is something of a failure in her private life: high tempered, demanding, and determined to hold others to the same high standard for which she strives, she has a well deserved reputation for coldness and unkindness. Most specifically, she has a need to be in absolute control–and as a result she makes enough enemies both professionally and publicly to fill a telephone directory. And when she is found dead in her offices there are suspects galore.

    Throughout the novel James revels in the details of the English court system, painting brilliant portraits of the individuals who move across the surface of the law–and sometimes under it. And as the novel progresses she draws us deeper and deeper still into their lives, their motivations, their worlds. It is a brilliant piece of writing. But it has a problem: the ending stinks.Read more ›

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