My early assumption was that the story had an intriguing ring: London, end of the 70s. A young lady, Philippa, knowing that she had been adopted, sets out to look for her biological parents. Her adoptive parents, with whom she never quite had a close relationship, are unhappy about this choice but nothing can stop Philippa. What she eventually finds out is shocking but, seemingly unperturbed, she sets out to try and establish a contact to learn more about her early childhood. Meanwhile, somebody else is looking into the past and, unbeknownst to anybody, is waiting for the right time to strike out, to quench the thirst of vendetta over the murder of his young daughter years ago.
Although the linguistic is definitely high class, the narrative is just too tediously overly-descriptive, resulting in total failure to engage me fully as a good thriller should do. I often found myself skimming through some parts, trying to get to the core of the chapter. Additionally, none of the main characters, Philippa in primis, were particularly likeable one way or the other, no matter how sad or tragic their backgrounds. This too, contributed to a certain degree of dislike for the whole tale.
I know and respect Mrs. P.D. James' reputation as a writer, but this book just was not for me.
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58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
One of the best (crime) novels ever written...Aug. 28 2002
- Published on Amazon.com
James is a great writer of detective/crime fiction. Her Adam Dalgleish series of novels are excellent, very readable and enjoyable. She surpasses herself with "Innocent Blood", this 'stand alone' (i.e. not part of a detective/crime series) novel of crime and revenge. James tells the story of a young adoptee who, upon her 18th birthday, applies for the right to see her birth certificate and learn the identity of her birth parents. She discovers that her mother is in jail, convicted of murder, but is soon eligible for release. Someone else is aware of the impending release -- the father of the murder victim -- is waiting to exact revenge. The character of the adoptee, her fantasies about her birth parents and her difficulties with her adoptive parents, is very well written. One aches at her adolescent self-assuredness which we suspect will lead her to painful revelations. The father of the murder victim seeking revenge is developed slowly and carefully so that one begins to wonder who is the criminal mind at work in the novel. His pursuit of his daughter's killer becomes the life-changing and animating event of his life. The birth mother/murderer/revenge target is less well drawn -- and justly so. The action of the novel is driven by the fantasies, resentments and expectations that her daughter and father of her victim have about this enigmatic woman. It's apparent that who she really is is ultimately and tragically immaterial to those who so desperately seek her. A great read and very well crafted and written novel. A must for crime fiction readers -- but a recommended read for anyone looking for a well-wrought compelling piece of contemporary British fiction.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
Perhaps her finest workAug. 22 2001
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INNOCENT BLOOD is one of the most gripping books I have ever read. PD James takes a common childhood fantasy ('what if I were adopted?') and crafts a tale of a complex young woman on a thrilling, frightening, and ultimately empowering journey of self-discovery. Philippa Palfrey <was> adopted, but under circumstances far more grim than the Victorian melodramatics of her imagination. She locates her birth mother in prison and convinces her to live with her upon her release. Waiting for that very day is the father of a child Philippa's mother was convicted of killing. That man, named Scase, is truly creepy; James doesn't try to hide that yet still manages to evoke sympathy for him. The author builds the suspense to a shattering moment when mother, daughter, and Scase are brought together in a bizarre triptych; one is mad enough to kill, one is trying to kill, and one wants to die. Philippa is one of the most psychologically-complex characters ever to spring from James's vast imagination. Some readers will be shocked by the turn taken in Philippa's relationship with her adoptive father in the final chapters, but not a moment in this book rings false. I cannot praise INNOCENT BLOOD highly enough. Here, PD James is at the height of her awesome ability to set a scene -- you will see the drops of water on the laminated table in the adoption records office and smell the oranges in the grocery below Philippa's apartment. Thank you, PD James, for this thrilling read.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
My favorite P. D. James, but I'd give it 4.5 starsDec 16 2004
Neal J. Pollock
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm amazed at the range of reactions to this book, but I liked it best of the 16 books of hers I've read. And there's no Dalgleish! This is a pretty heavy duty mystery with fantastic characterization and the equivalent of an airshow's twists and turns. Some may very well be put off by the ending, but if they all end the same, where's the mystery? But, like some of Block's Scudder novels, this mystery edges into the regime of real literature through the author's characterizations -- looking into the depths of humans. Enjoy.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Portrait of a LadyJune 22 2001
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P.D. James is a contemporary novelist with a Victorian sensibility, a style that puts some readers off, especially those of us who want writers to get right to the point. "They lived in a house that cost big bucks" says it much quicker than four pages that describe the dwelling's lush gardens and opulent furnishings. Yet this is a beautifully crafted work with profound psychological insight. The author isn't just skilled, she's wise. Philippa is a complicated, cerebral, self-absorbed young woman. Giving and receiving affection are hard for her. When she re-connects with her birth mother, though, she falls quickly, simply and deeply in love. Then the truth about her mother's early rejection of her surfaces. Philippa, feeling betrayed, responds by rejecting her mother. By the time Philippa figures that out that what she's lost isn't love but love's illusion and that her love for her mother is real and true despite the earlier betrayal, the inevitable words have been spoken and the unavoidable tragedy has struck. James could have opted for a cheerful ending. Philippa and her mother could have reconciled. The homicidal stalker could have been foiled. Philippa could have made peace with her adoptive parents or left them in a nice way. But circumstances conspire to teach Philippa that falling in love and the happiness that comes from it are only the surface of love. If it's a truer love that Philippa is after, her will must be broken. She'll need to experience pain, loss, grief and sacrifice to begin to attain the humility and poverty of spirit that James seems to feel are the prerequisites of a deeper or higher love. The compassion that Philippa feels for her mother's murderer and the actions that flow from it show that Philippa has begun to love in earnest. This is her mother's gift to her. Neither Scase nor Maurice are villains. For all his denials, Maurice loves Philippa, though he lacks the courage to allow himself to love her selflessly and so to love himself and Hilda. Scase is pitiful but his suffering is as real as the others. So is Hilda's. A less masterful writer might have left us with the feeling that suffering is the prelude to love or else its devastating aftermath. James, whose vision is religious though not doctrinal, seems to see it differently. Love, she seems to be saying, is both suffering and the power that redeems suffering. Philippa, the unloved and unloving child, has the potential to become a loved and loving woman.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
The Tie That BindsJan. 21 2008
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P.D. James is best known for her detective Adam Dalgliesh and the mysteries that he has masterly solved in a dozen novels. "Innocent Blood", while a departure from her usual fare, still exhibits some of James' trademarks and is overall an intriguing and slightly disturbing crime novel. The thought with which the plotlines and characters twine together showcases the author's ability to craft ingenious crimes and plumb the psychological depths of her characters.
"Innocent Blood" is the tale of Philippa Palfrey, who has just turned eighteen and is eager to find out who her birth parents were so that she can in turn discover who she is. Adopted when she was eight, Philippa can remember hardly anything of her previous life, and has filled in the gaps with wild romantic fantasies that are brought to a crashing halt when she learns the truth about her background. For she is the daughter of a rapist and a murderer - her biological father died in prison, while her mother is soon due to be released. Philippa denies the advice of her adopted family and searches out her birth mother, blindly putting aside the fact that her mother murdered a twelve-year-old girl, and the two wind up sharing a flat in London for a few weeks in the summer. But Philippa's plans of reconciling with her mother are thrown into jeopardy by someone unknown to her; for the father of the murdered girl has spent the past ten years planning how to enact his vigilante vengeance and stalks the mother and daughter so he can carry out his plan. Yet when Philippa learns a truth even more disconcerting about her mother and her adoption, everyone's plans for the future are threatened.
"Innocent Blood" is not as easy a read as others of James' works. It begins slowly, and the main characters are far from likeable. Philippa has spent the past ten years living in the lap of luxury, but feels nothing more than grudging sense of entitlement toward her adoptive parents. Maurice, her adoptive father, is a sociology professor, who seems to view his relationship with Philippa as an experiment, until the reader learns the true motive behind his actions. The reader will perhaps be surprised to feel some empathy for Philippa's birth mother, despite the fact that she is a child murderer. But the strongest character in the novel is Norman Scase, the vengeance seeking father, a gentle man who made a promise to his late wife to seek out the murderer of their child and who struggles under the enormity of that promise. As the plotlines of these various characters interconnect, the novel picks up pace and draws to an interesting close, but one that is slightly disturbing and perhaps less fulfilling than other crimes P.D. James has offered in other works.