cover image A Certain Justice: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery

A Certain Justice: An Adam Dalgliesh Mystery

P. D. James. Alfred A Knopf Inc, $25 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-375-40109-1

Crafting a classic locked-room mystery in her latest Adam Dalgliesh novel, James leads readers on a page-turning journey behind the scenes of the English legal system and along the darker, twisted byways of human intentions. Although neither Dalgliesh, Commander at New Scotland Yard, nor Detective Inspector Kate Miskin provides the most powerful presence here, readers won't mind: victims and suspects comprise an indelible cast. Introduced first is ambitious criminal lawyer Venetia Aldridge as she successfully defends a chillingly unfeeling young man named Ashe against charges that he murdered his slatternly aunt, with whom he lived after stints in a series of foster homes and institutions. Venetia is found dead in her locked office, wearing a blood-soaked barrister's wig, shortly after her 18-year-old daughter, Octavia, announced that she was in love with Ashe and planned to marry him. While questioning the lawyers and staff who shared the victim's chambers at Pawlet Court, Dalgliesh, Kate and her new partner, Piers Tarrant, probe the dead woman's past and personal history. James (Original Sin, 1995) briskly introduces a varied array of suspects and motives, drawing the reader deeper into their lives and gradually revealing a network of intersections. Another murder precedes the disappearance of Octavia and Ashe, which leads to a riveting, credible resolution. Themes of obsession, neglect, revenge and ambition fuel this emotionally powerful puzzler, which may remind readers of the author's stand-alone novel Innocent Blood (1980) and is immensely satisfying in both its intricate plot and complexity of characters. 250,000 first printing; BOMC selection; author tour; simultaneous Random House audio and large print edition. (Dec.)