A Certain Justice (Adam Dalgliesh # 10) – P.D. James

This is the best murder-mystery novel in the Dalgliesh series so far. Here, James has combined a clever and complicated plot with just the right amount of suspense to keep you on edge. A clever and successful barrister is found dead in her chambers, stabbed at the heart, and Dalgleish and his team are drawn into a complicated web of retribution, vengeance, rivalry, and envy. When however the prime suspect dies, the story takes a different turn, making it even more complex and puzzling. Interestingly, this second murder creates a separate murder-mystery by way of a subplot. The two were interconnected of course, yet could be enjoyed as separate murder-mysteries. It was an interesting experiment of James and a highly successful one in my view.

James’s writing is often described as “intelligent” and this novel has done immense justice for that compliment. No ordinary author could have created such an intricate murder-mystery. It was very cleverly thought and properly executed. Up to now, I’ve enjoyed most in the series and have appreciated her as an author, but A Certain Justice took that appreciation a step further into admiration.

The story, though clouded here and there with few implausible incidents, is compelling with its neatly constructed storyline and the sincere psychological portrait of both the victims and their murderers. James invites sympathy for all. She successfully rouses varying emotions of anger, frustration, pity, sadness. All these were tied into one curious knot that I didn’t know whether to scream, or cry, or laugh like one in hysterics. I’ve never felt such strong emotions for a work of hers let alone any other novel of the murder-mystery genre, so I found this novelty surprising. The ending was, however, slightly disappointing. It was rushed in with an intent to end rather than to produce a satisfactory result. The inability of Dalgliesh to apprehend the culprit who set the whole criminal enterprise in wheel because of lack of concrete evidence didn’t sit well with me. It was a bit of a set back to the otherwise near-perfect story and one that was hard to overlook, but the overall enjoyment was too great that I couldn’t let this disappointment disconcert me.

As always I enjoyed Adam Dalgliesh’s intelligence, composure, tact, and subtle authority. I’ve liked him from the beginning despite his reticence, but he certainly has grown on me over the series. He has proven time and again that he is capable of human feelings, and that the constant intercourse with the criminal world has not hardened him. He is one of the reasons that I continued with the series even when some of the books sorely disappointed me.

I’ve been reading the Dalgliesh series in order and this tenth book is the one I liked most. There were instances when I really wanted to give up the series, but I’m happy that I didn’t give in to the momentary despair and continued, for otherwise, I would have missed this one. Sometimes, perseverance can be rewarding.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.

Leave a Reply