Rumpole has to be the jurist doppelganger of Chandler's Philip Marlowe. Both deal with oddball crimes and defending underdogs: all with a tad of sarcastic wit (a la Evelyn Waugh) targeting the powers in place. Right up my alley! In this, one of his last Rumpoles, Mortimer finally gives us the skinny concerning this case that Rumpole flaunts in everyone's face in almost every novel, or story.
The best part of a Horace Rumpole mystery is the wry wit; actually, he sometimes offers readers a roar of laughter. There must be more than 20 Rumpole mysteries, not including the Rumpole Christmas books and omnibuses.
Rumpole has been telling tales about the Old Bailey for some 40 years most of them talking about Rumpole hiding from the shadow of retirement. Thus, it is a delight to see a young Rumpole in this story. It is the 1950s and Horace has been a barrister for a mere 18 months.
This particular book is the story of how a young white wig Horace tackled his first important case the Penge Bungalow Murders. It is also the story of how Hilda (daughter of Horaces boss), managed to snare Rumpole into marriage.
Through an odd set of circumstances, Rumpole takes over the case and the Old Bailey is scandalized. One of the old barristers in Rumpoles group chides Horace for getting the lead chair (actually the only chair) in the trial by stating that he had been a barrister for 15 years before getting to lead a case!
Although John Mortimer was a criminal barrister in his younger days, he doesnt let the law get too heavy; theres always a joke or some pithy sarcasm around the corner. Some of the best lines in a Rumpole book are in the repartee between Horace and she who must be obeyed (aka Hilda, his wife).
Having read a number of these books, it is nice to see how Horace started his career. No matter how other barristers try to mold him into their likenesses (as self-satisfied, lazy and even corrupt lawyers), Rumpole always believes in the innocence of his client (until proven otherwise). He keeps overturning rocks until he finds all the dirty little secrets that have lead to murder.
My Rumpole reviews are all the same, I love these books but I've read them so many times and it just time to let them go and bring in some new stuff. I only have so much room for books. If you liked one Rumpole you'll like them all.