Innocent Blood

Innocent Blood - P.D. James [These notes were made in 1988:]. There are unknowns which are revealed in this novel, but it's not really a murder mystery. Rather, it's a psychological novel: an examination of the mental makeup of a young woman, through her reaction to a highly unusual set of circumstances. Philippa, who has been adopted and brought up by a progressive sociologist and his mousy wife, decides to exercise her legal rights and locate her biological mother. To her great surprise, it turns out that, far from the aristocratic father / pregnant maid fantasy that she and her adoptive mother have constructed between them, her parents were actually imprisoned -- father for the rape of a twelve-year-old girl, and mother for the subsequent murder of the child. Father is dead, but Philippa locates her mother, soon to be released on parole, and asks her to share a flat. Meanwhile, the father of the murdered little girl, trapped into a spirit of revenge by the last wishes of his now-dead wife, is stalking Philippa's mother in the hopes of killing her. We follow him through the ups and downs of his vengeful campaign, and learn a great deal about him in the process. In fact, we develop sympathy for both "the murderess" (as Alfred Scase calls her) and the man who wants to kill her. Ironically, it is eventually Philippa, if anyone, whom we see killing. When she finds out that she was beaten as a child, and that her mother gave her away before the murder, she bitterly rejects her mother, who commits suicide that night, just in time to anticipate Alfred Scase, who plunges in his knife a little too late. Philippa, now beginning to discover just how very hard and selfish she actually is, makes a curious sort of amends by protecting Scase and allowing him to pick up such pieces of his life as he can. The philosophical question is quite blatant -- who is the murderer? The woman who choked a child in an uncontrollable rage? The man who plunged in a revengeful knife but did not technically kill? Or the young woman whose harsh and unforgiving words drove her mother to suicide?