In her 10th book, James’ has foraged into the world of London Law and the legal community. Her setting is as always dramatic – Middle Temple, the heart of London’s legal world. She begins the story with Venetia Aldridge, the Queen’s Counsel, who is a Barrister in London’s legal world, but from the onset, the reader knows what is coming for her, especially since James clearly states that Aldridge has only four odd weeks left.
In those four weeks, James describes everything there is to know about Aldridge and her life. About how she is disliked by many because she looks at every case as a means to further her own career and reputation, rather than as justice being served. And so, when she works hard and succeeds in getting a known psychopath by the name of Garry Ashe off the hook for killing his prostitute aunt, it is no surprise that in the short span of time following this victory, Aldridge is found dead, stabbed through the heart with a letter opener which is shaped like the scales of justice.
James expounds that every action has consequences. And when Garry Ashe takes up with Aldridge’s unhappy and unloved daughter, Aldridge begins to question her victories, more importantly the one where she got Ashe acquitted. The setting of the murder scene is through and through James. It is a traditional setting, mixed with the modern day and age. And in her typical style, there are at least a dozen suspects, ranging from Aldridge’s colleagues to the office cleaner and a sleazy Member of Parliament. But, where any other author would make this sound clichéd, P. D. James makes the reader feel like even though each story or character might be irrelevant to the case, they are all in their own aspect, real.
In A Certain Justice, James has beautifully woven together the exact precise world of forensics with well described characters who force the readers to question philosophical concepts of justice. However, her protagonist of ten novels – Dalgliesh, is only introduced into the story when it is three quarters underway. He seems to be oddly distant in the book, solving the murder of Miss Aldridge in a detached aloof sort of way. His presence seems to be more of a token than anything else. Maybe Baroness James is planning on retiring her protagonist in typical British fashion, and this is her way of introducing the concept. But, whatever the case be, Dalgliesh has not been as elaborately inserted into the story as James’ other novels.
Overall, the book is one of James’ finer works, with elegant descriptions of the Legal world in London. With well described characters that come to life, and scenes that add richness to the plot, James has once again shown her skills as the master of the macabre.