Rumpole Misbehaves by John Mortimer
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The song remains the same, but there's something so likable about Rumpole, that old curmudgeon of a London barrister, that it doesn't matter if each book feels a little like a repeat.
On the surface, this story is just another Rumpole petty crime court case with the Timsons in-tow, however, sex slave trafficking turns out to be the seedy underbelly.
On the home front, Rumpole's wife Hilda is intrigued by the advances of a judge into studying for the bar, as well as participating in her usual pastime of pushing Rumpole towards a silk robe, the garment of a judge. This time around even Rumpole himself seems interested in seeing that become a reality, but longtime readers know the likelihood of it happening is slim indeed.
Why? Well, look at it this way. Rumpole is very much like The Highlander in that he never ages. He is perpetually on the verge of retirement for decade upon decade. The series started in the late 1970s and ran for 30 years. Rumpole's age is hard to pinpoint exactly, but he always appears to be in his late 50s to early 60s irregardless of the hippies, discos, punks, Johnny Depp movies, iPods or the post 9/11 world whirling about him. Fashions came and went, events befell humanity, but Rumpole motored on, never changing right up to the end.
Rumpole Misbehaves was one of, if not, the last book in the series that John Mortimer published before his death (I only know of one collection of Christmas stories that came after this and that was published posthumously,) so I found myself actually investing some real hope that Rumpole might finally succeed in getting silk for himself and rising from lawyer to judge. I thought, heck, maybe Mortimer sensed the end was nigh and threw the old boy a bone. Not likely?
I don't feel I'm spoiling anything terribly important here. No, because the real moral of Mortimer's stories is morality. Rumpole maybe be rough around the edges, but what we like about him is his willingness to put right before wrong regardless of the consequences to himself. This fat, cigar-puffing grouch is as close as a white knight as you'll get these days.
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