John Mortimer, a retired barrister (lawyer), offers to take us into the mysterious world of British law. He spoofs the silly, pompous and ego-inflated lawyers he knows while trying to save his defendant from the gallows.
He makes fun of She Who Must Be Obeyed and adores his son Nicholas. When in the presence of She Who.., Horace Rumpole feigns obedience while sharing with the reader what he REALLY thinks.
If you are looking for some short stories that have flash and/or somber drama, look elsewhere. However, readers who give Rumpole time to spin out his tale will be rewarded with wry wit and a fun look at the British legal system from the inside.
I would much rather read a single story vs. several short stories because there, by necessity, is little character development. However, in Mortimers 21 Rumpole books, he keeps his cadre of cronies. Thus, over the course of a few short stories, we learn the modus operandi of the secondary characters warts and all.
What I love about Rumpole is that he is so irreverent hes willing to lampoon anyone, including himself. He likes to come across as a foolish oaf; however, watch him harpoon the opposition with clever tactics and a sharp mind. He brings the Old Bailey to life.
In "Rumpole of the Bailey", John Mortimer has served up a veritable smorgasbord of short snappy tales that are the very best that British courtroom humour has to offer. Whether it's criminal trials in the old Bailey or civil trials in Chancery division, Horace Rumpole takes on all comers with a trademarked irreverent disdain for the sanctity of the law, the court, the judiciary and his learned colleagues at the bar. But, make no mistake, Rumpole's disarming attitude and appearance mask a razor sharp legal mind able to cut directly to the heart of the matter and an ability to draw on brutally cunning legal tactics which, for many American readers, will be reminiscent of the television detective, Columbo.
Whether Rumpole is in court or lighting up a cigar and quaffing a glass of Chateau Fleet Street at his favourite after-hours haunt, Pommeroy's Wine Bar, Rumpole is accompanied by an endearing supporting cast that is an integral part of the amusing, indeed often hilarious stories that Mortimer has produced - Guthrie Featherstone QC MP, the stiffly starched and prissy (yet often philandering) head of chambers; Claude Erskine-Brown, the slightly looser barrister who is head over heels in love with the only female member of chambers, the eloquent and deeply feminist Phillida Trant; Rumpole's wife, Hilda, the imposing "She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed"; and Percy Timson, the patriarch of a widespread London family of low-level criminals whose bumbling failures are destined to keep Rumpole supplied with a steady stream of defense briefs for as long as he cares to work.
Hilarious brain candy guaranteed to take you away from the worries of the workaday world for a blissful all-too-short few hours.
Different cover from that shown.1986 printing