2009: 96. Innocent Blood

“The social worker was older than she had expected; perhaps the nameless official who arranged these matters thought that graying hair and menopausal plumpness might inspire confidence in the adopted adults who came in for their mandatory counseling.”

Innocent Blood, P.D. James

      This is one of James’s few stand alone novels, and is also one of my favorites of hers.  It’s less a murder mystery than a story of the havoc murder leaves behind, even years later.  There are two protagonists - Philippa Palfry, adopted into a family of privilege at a young age, who, the summer before she goes to Cambridge decides to find out who she really is.  Although the book is set in the late 1970’s she’s subconsciously created a quasi-Victorian fantasy of being the child of an aristocrat and a parlormaid, which only makes her devastation more intense when she learns who her real parents are - two famous child murderers.  Although her father died in prison her mother is about to be released, and on a whim she decides to give up her plans of spending a summer in Europe, and invites her unknown mother to come and live with her.  The other main character is Norman Scase, the father of the girl they killed, who, upon his wife’s death, takes early retirement, and takes up their one cause - to get revenge on the murderess.  The two stories intertwine to an inevitable climax, and James’s handling of all the characters - not just Phillippa and Scase, but the ancillary characters, too.  Phillipa’s adopted parents, her friends from Cambridge - and the woman at the center of it all, the murderess.  I’ve read it a number of times and am always enraptured by the book - it stays with me, and at the same time I can reread it and not be bored.  Where most mysteries just tell you whodunnit, this makes you think about what the consequences of a murder can be.

Date/Place Completed:  August 2009; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction, P.D. James Project 

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017