The Trials of Rumpole by John Mortimer
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
There's an old shoe familiarity to these Rumpole books that suits me just fine.
Rumpole, a barrister in London's Old Bailey, is a lovable curmudgeon. Yet John Mortimer has also portrayed his main character as a sort of knight in shining armor. He gets to the truth and prevails, even if it means finding a known criminal innocent of the crime he's been charged with. Sometimes the truth results in an outcome that isn't what Rumpole himself would desire, but that's life, and life is drawn up rather realistically in this otherwise often humorous series.
With Rumpole books you get crime, court room drama, cheeky humor, quick yet insightful character studies and a nice slice of life from the various strata of London society. Often Rumpole is defending "the lower orders", the criminal class as it were. That's his forte. He doesn't mind if a little blood is involved in his cases, in fact he kind of prefers it that way. Another lovable trait for the reader to latch on to.
In The Trials of Rumpole, the second book in the series, Horace Rumpole relays a few of his memorable cases in short story form. Mortimer does a smart job of tying them together enough to make them feel linear, as if you're reading a single, homogeneous novel.
Another clever move on Mortimer's part was to make each of these books (at least the half dozen or so I've read) all self-contained. So, if you've never read a Rumpole book, you can go ahead and start with whichever one you find first. Sure, Rumpole will reference some past trial and it might make you feel like you're missing out on backstory. Don't worry about it, the old curmudgeon always does that. Like the typical elderly gentleman on the brink of retirement, he likes to reminisce about his past triumphs. Sit back, slip on that old shoe and enjoy the tale.
View all my reviews