DI Adam Dalgiesh is asked to investigate the death of Venetia Aldridge, a famous criminal barrister found murdered in chambers. At the time of her death, had just successfully defended Gary Ashe, accused of the bloody murder of his Aunt. Her life is turned upside down when she discovers that Ashe has commenced a relationship with her daughter and that they intend to be married. Could it be Ashe who has killed Aldridge, or even her own daughter who has killed her out of spite? Or is it more complicated than anyone can imagine?
I certainly enjoyed the book nad while I was reading it, I couldn’t put it down. The plot was engaging in a very dark way and it certainly felt significantly more realistic than a lot of crime novels.
I believe that the last point is largely because of the author herself.
I had heard PD James spoken of as one of the best as well as one of the most prolific modern day crime writers. Naturally this meant that I was keen to read one of her books. This was only enhanced when I heard her speak about her life on the ABC Radio National Book Show on the occasion of her 90th birthday. She seemed to have led a fascinating life in various government departments, including a lot of criminal and forensic sections of the government and so I was interested to see how her books were informed by this experience.
As said, it definitely seemed to. The book displayed an understanding of the criminal law system (I feel able to say that because I am a criminal lawyer in NSW Australia and the Australian system is based on that of England) and it also displayed an accurate understanding of the approach criminal barristers take to their work.
People are often harsh about crimnial solicitors and barristers. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I could represent guilty people I would be a very rich lady (well, I'd be well off anyway). The reality is that most people who choose the criminal law as their career path (from a defence perspective anyway), it is more about the bigger picture than the smaller picture.
My only reservation with this book is that it hasn’t proved to be very memorable. Although I can remember being hooked on it while I was reading it, now that I have read it some time ago I can’t remember much about it. Certainly not much of the detail.
In the end, I would say that it was a great example of modern crime writing, nothing more and nothing less.