Horace Rumpole, Francis Pettigrew, and Others of the Legal Profession

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Horace Rumpole, Francis Pettigrew, and Others of the Legal Profession

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Maio 28, 2008, 12:45 am

I know there have been mentions of current and past legal mystery authors/series, but thought a thread couldn't hurt. I've read Horace Rumpole and Francis Pettigrew's adventures with pleasure, as I have those more singular adventures featuring those of the legal profession, such as Smallbone Deceased, and to a lesser degree, Josephine Tey's, the title of which is escaping me.

Of course, all of my experience is vintage.

And my inspiration for mentioning them, and of course inciting conversation, is noticing that "The Antisocial Behavior of Horace Rumpole" is being broadcast in two parts as BBC Radio 4's Afternoon Plays for this Wednesday (in the U.K., that would be today, already) and Thursday. You can listen again, online, for up to a week after broadcast. (To my U.S.-bound joy.)

Can anyone fill me in on the best of British and Irish legal mysteries, aside from Rumpole, since the fifties?

Maio 28, 2008, 12:54 am

If I'm in the mood for humorous legal mysteries, one I particularly enjoy is Sarah Caudwell.

Maio 28, 2008, 12:57 am

Oh, yes! I bought Thus Was Adonis Murdered yesterday - and haven't entered it, yet. (A fall from my no-book-buying, as the local Half Price Books was having its 20% off Memorial Day Sale....) It looked very engaging, I've meant to buy Sarah Caudwell before, and the promise of wit and intelligence was the cap on it.

Maio 28, 2008, 4:46 pm

I am sure you will love Sarah Caudwell. Another to try if you can find them are the Lennox Kemp books by M.R.D. Meek. In the first ones, he is a disbarred lawyer working as an investigator for a law firm, but later he gets reinstated to the bar. Frances Fyfield also has two series with lawyers as leading characters, and I think Natasha Cooper as well.

Maio 28, 2008, 11:49 pm

Your post inspired me to begin immediately, quartzite. From the first paragraph, I was smiling with delight. Quite right!

I have read one or two Fyfields, which I remember as interesting, affecting, and of a very different cast. Will look for M.R.D. Meek. His ill luck sounds like an auspicious beginning, for the reader....

Maio 29, 2008, 5:52 am

Based on the tags on the Rumpole page, a tagmash for British, Law, fiction comes up with:

Bleak House (Modern Library Classics) by Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities (Penguin Classics) by Charles Dickens
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
A Certain Justice by P.D. James
The Merchant of Venice (Folger Shakespeare Library) by William Shakespeare
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
Old Filth by Jane Gardam
The Sibyl in Her Grave by Sarah Caudwell
The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell
Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer
The Sirens Sang of Murder by Sarah Caudwell
The First Rumpole Omnibus (Rumpole) by John Mortimer
and more Rumpole

Maybe this needs refining a bit!

I was going to suggest a certain justice anyway. Although PDJames's inspector Dalgleesh stories are more police procedural than legal, this one is very centered about the Temple Courts in London, and a worthy read.

Editado: Maio 31, 2008, 11:44 am

Excellent. You inspired me, and - in an effort to refine - I tried "british, mystery, legal". It seemed to get us the best selection. Here, from the "top 57":

Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell
The Sirens Sang of Murder by Sarah Caudwell
The Shortest Way to Hades by Sarah Caudwell
The Sibyl in Her Grave by Sarah Caudwell

Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer
Rumpole and the Golden Thread by John Mortimer
Rumpole on trial by John Mortimer
Rumpole for the defence by John Mortimer
The trials of Rumpole by John Mortimer
Rumpole à la carte by John Mortimer
Rumpole's Return by John Mortimer
Rumpole and the age of miracles by John Mortimer
Rumpole's last case by John Mortimer
Rumpole Rests His Case by John Clifford Mortimer
Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow murders by John Mortimer
Rumpole and the angel of death by John Mortimer
The First Rumpole Omnibus (Rumpole) by John Mortimer
The Second Rumpole Omnibus by John Mortimer
Rumpole and the Primrose Path by John Mortimer
Rumpole Misbehaves: A Novel (Rumpole Novels) by John Mortimer
Rumpole and the Younger Generation (Penguin 60s S.) by John Mortimer

Arthur and George by Julian Barnes

With a bare bodkin by Cyril Hare
The wind blows death by Cyril Hare
Tragedy at law by Cyril Hare

Smallbone deceased by Michael Gilbert

The Franchise Affair by Josephine tey

Patrick Butler for the Defence by John Dickson Carr

A clear conscience by Frances Fyfield

Gallows View: The First Inspector Banks Mystery by Peter Robinson

Fox evil by Minette Walters

Dark fire by C. J. Sansom

The big four : a Hercule Poirot novel by Agatha Christie (I do not remember this being a legal mystery at all.)

Robbed Blind by Roy Hart

Judicial whispers by Caro Fraser

The emperor's pearl : a Judge Dee mystery by Robert van Gulik
Poets and murder by Robert van Gulik
(I grant Judge Dee investigates. The few stories I've read don't involve courtroom scenes or much of the law-office and legal-character sort. Of course, others may.)

Not having read them, I cannot say whether these are appropriate, in our meaning:

The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth

Luciano's luck by Jack Higgins

The summons by Peter Lovesey (I leave this one, which I do not know, with a note that much Lovesey came up, despite a lack of known legal relevance - so to speak)

I hope the list, as amended, is a bit more useful, or readable. I'll try to rework it into a better list of authors, adding Quartzite's suggestions, a bit later.

Maio 29, 2008, 3:41 pm

Any comments on these? I suppose I could have organized them by author, or culled those we've mentioned, and asked after the rest, but I don't feel like there's time.

Maio 29, 2008, 5:13 pm

I like Peter Lovesey's books, but they aren't legal mysteries.

Maio 29, 2008, 5:18 pm

Other than those authors already mentioned, the only I have read is Fox Evil, which I remember was good, but I don't remember the story. Doing my own tag mash of British, mystery, legal, brought up two authors I forgot--Sara Woods who has a series in which her main protagonist, Anthony Maitland, is a barrister. I like those books. The books often have trial scenes. The second was Henry Cecil. I have read some of his but not his legal mysteries.

Maio 30, 2008, 5:16 pm

Christina, I didn't know if perhaps some I had not read were. From others, the list is clearly still fuzzy.

Let me, perhaps, amend it.

Quartzite, thank you. As ever, you're a great resource. :)

Maio 31, 2008, 6:21 am

Eurydice I've read Darkness at Noon, which is well worth reading, but is philosophical and political and not at all a British legal mystery.

Big fan of Sarah Caudwell.

Maio 31, 2008, 10:46 am

I read Gallows View, and don't remember any legal involvement--it was a police procedural. Admittedly, I don't remember all the details.

Babel Tower involves some legal court matters (e.g., a book being banned for indecency, custody hearings, etc.) but it is not a mystery in my opinion.

Bleak House involves a long legal battle over an inheritance and there is a bit of a mystery. . .

Maio 31, 2008, 11:48 am

I've removed those named (thank you). Bleak House I thought probably something like that, and I can understand the senses in which it and Babel Tower were tagged. Dickens is not a favorite of mine, so I admit to only having read five or six of his novels.

Maio 31, 2008, 2:54 pm

I've only read a few Dickens as well, but of what I have read Bleak House was definitely my favorite.

Maio 31, 2008, 6:12 pm

Ah. Ok. Well, then I will consider giving it a shot one day.

Maio 31, 2008, 10:43 pm

>16 Eurydice: I enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Bleak House, so if you don't feel up to reading Dickens, you might want to check that out.

Jun 1, 2008, 12:12 am

Thank you, Christina, good to know. That's worked for me, before. (As with Little Dorrit, which I have not read.)

Editado: Jun 1, 2008, 9:34 am

One writer I intend to read one day is Henry Cecil, author of Ways and Means, Alibi For a JUdge and others. I believe he was a judge himself, or something similar.

Another book involving a trial. Is The Sniper by Richard Williams. The details are lodged somewhere in the deep recesses of my fuzzy memory, but I think it was pretty good. Williams was a pseudonym used by a number of authors, can`t remember who wrote this particular one.

Editado: Jun 1, 2008, 9:33 am

It was Stephen Frances aka Hank Janson.

As I`ve inadvertently brought an American writer into the picture, I shall make amends by mentioning Witness for the Prosecution. If the book`s as good as the film it will be worth a read.

Jun 1, 2008, 12:44 pm

Interesting. Henry Cecil sounds appealing.

Jun 1, 2008, 3:14 pm

So interesting, I googled him while I was having lunch. He was Henry Cecil Leon, a County Court Judge who wrote as Henry Cecil and Clifford Maxwell.

One of his books, Brothers in Law, was made into first a film and then a TV series in the `50s.

I keep promising myself I`ll read his stuff one day - but I promise myself that about a lot of writers !

Jun 2, 2008, 3:11 am

As do I!

Having another profession seems fruitful for many a writer. (Or is that exaggerating?)

Jan 9, 2011, 12:38 pm

Of course Rumpole! How could I forget him? I love the series.

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