Thursday, 21 March 2013

PD James - A Certain Justice

courtesy: bookand 
This author was a surprising discovery when I picked up the book randomly at the library. Reading a couple of utterly compelling chapters was enough to pique my curiosity to look her up. Well, I realised how much ignorant I had been, to discover that she is one of the doyens of British crime fiction, an OBE and has a solid fan following. However, there was also another minor detail that brought me great delight; such a talented and celebrated writer shared her birthday with me! 

The reason for my heightened excitement is that, well at present, I have a low patience threshold with writers unfamiliar writers. A
shattered mother sitting up half the night for my baby, I often quit reading "new" authors mid-way. But once I picked up this book, it had me hooked, forcing me turn just one page before setting it aside for the night.

A Certain Justice is about a high flying, unsentimental and ambitious female lawyer at the height of a very promising career in a cut-throat male dominated profession. So when she is discovered dead in her office, there is no dearth of enemies as suspects. This sets the scene for the entry of Adam Dalgliesh (quite an unusual name!), the detective who then solves the case with the help of his subordinates, Kate and Piers.

However, what was most impressive is James’ writing style; very instructive of what good writing is all about. The way she paints verbal pictures, fleshes out the characters, endearing them to the reader before they set out to commit actions is truly remarkable. It reminds one of Elizabeth George but then James (now hitting her 90s) has been around long enough be an inspiration for George instead of the other way round.

The only downside as such is her rather “meticulous” approach to introducing the story. Perhaps it can be interpreted as a slow introduction of the background of characters before getting to the plot, but then this reader is used to modern writers who, marred by insecurity, launch into the murder right away.

James’ mystery is well paced with twists and turns keeping the reader guessing till the very end. Even the violent scenes are described with panache, illuminating the dark side of human nature. However, she has tendency to justify human actions, often found in the dialogue of case-solving detective. But then this is my first Dalgliesh novel and I am curious to see how the detective’s character pans out in the other novels especially since he is said to be a poet detective, the evidence of which was missing in this one.

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