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Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare
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Tragedy at Law (original 1942; edition 2009)

by Cyril Hare (Author)

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230850,307 (3.95)17
Member:pgmcc
Title:Tragedy at Law
Authors:Cyril Hare (Author)
Info:Faber & Faber (2009), Edition: Main, 288 pages
Collections:To read
Rating:****
Tags:Read, Murder Mystery, 2017Sep

Work details

Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare (1942)

  1. 00
    Suicide Excepted by Cyril Hare (PeasantsCaptain)
    PeasantsCaptain: Both these mysteries (Suicide Excepted; Tragedy at Law)are still first class reads and come from the pen of a writer whose life in the Law gave him an expert viewpoint. He also wrote uncommonly well.
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» See also 17 mentions

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The first few pages of this book almost got me chucking it. I persisted reading and am glad. It was very enjoyable and Cyril Hare has a very interesting, fine sense of humor--which permeates the whole book, but was a bit lost on me at the very beginning, since I didn't know the characters. Also, the British justice system is portrayed in fascinating detail. I suspected the culprit from the start, but could not come up with a good reason for the crime. I am looking forward to reading other of Hare's books. I highly recommend this one. ( )
  MrsRK | Nov 21, 2016 |
Spoiler Warning: This is one story I always remember for its motive which turns on an odd point of law: in English law at the time, the victim of an accident could sue the estate of a dead person, but only within six months of the accident. A man is involved in an accident and liable to be sued for ruinous damages. He keeps trying to delay trial and once he has managed to delay it for 6 months, his wife murders him, because he if alive could still be sued but his wife as his heir could not. Francis Pettigrew the lawyer and amateur detective simply sends the wife the reference to the relevant decision in the law reports, and she commits suicide.The story is very clever but rather depressing as some of it is told from the POV (though 3rd person) of the rather sadly feeble victim. ( )
  antiquary | May 11, 2015 |
One of the finest traditional whodunnits that I have read!

Set on the Southern Assize Court Circuit in October 1939 as the country gradually subsided into war but before the subsequent privations became apparent, this novel tells of the tribulations of Frank Pettigrew, a down-at-heel barrister (perhaps an early forerunner of John Mortimer's HoraceRumpole) and Justice Barber. Steeped in pomposity the Judge stumbles through the proceedings, dependent upon the ministrations of his youthful and far more intelligent wife to preserve him from embarrassment. To add a little savour the reader subsequently discovers that before she married the Judge Lady Barber had previously been engaged to Pettigrew.

However, Lady Barber is not on hand to prevent her husband from deciding to drive home after a lawyers' mess dinner in the blackout and knocking over a stranger who suffers damage to his hand and may have to lose a finger. Distressing enough for anyone, this injury is particularly awkward for the victim as he is a feted classical pianist.

Meanwhile the Judge has been receiving anonymous and threatening letters, and we learn that Heppenstall, a former acquaintance to whom the Judge had delivered a particularly stiff sentence and who swore to seek bitter revenge, is now out of prison on licence and has been seen loitering in the vicinity.

The pianist consults his own lawyers who threaten to sue the Judge if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached out of court. This would, of course, signal the end of his career on the Bench. With all these elements Cyril Hare concocts a fairly heady brew, which eventually culminates with the murder of the Judge outside the Central Criminal Court.

Hare manages his plot masterfully, with a deft lightness of touch. One feels great empathy for Pettigrew, and shudders at the occasional loathsomeness of Barber.

Lovingly crafted and beautifully written - a very jolly summer read! ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jun 25, 2013 |
Although it has all the conventional components of murder, suspects, a police investigation, and a solution, Tragedy at Law is an unusual detective novel in that the focus of the plot is neither the murder, nor the search for the murderer. These occur only at the very end, and are dealt with briefly, providing the conclusion to the main story, a detailed portrayal of the work of the Court of Assizes, told as a fictional account of an eventful two month circuit in the south of England during the early years of the Second World War. Continued ( )
  apenguinaweek | Jan 9, 2012 |
This is an old-fashioned murder story set in the early years of the 2nd World War in a fictional and romanticised England. Hare writes elegantly and the book is heavily nostalgic. The plot is relatively slow and the murder takes forever to happen, but you feel in safe hands as Hare leads us to the inevitable corpse. For all that, I found the ending disappointingly predictable: I'd guessed the perpetrator long before the end. For all that, I've bought another Hare: being taken effortlessly into a world long since gone outweighs the mild disappointment of that last 'This is who did it and why'. ( )
  brackles9 | Oct 21, 2011 |
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'No trumpeters!' said his Lordship in a tone of melancholy and slightly peevish disapproval.
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In a well-conducted world - let it be repeated - all motorists without exception, but particularly Judges of the High Court, renew their driving licenses when they expire. Further, well before the due season, they take advantage of the reminders which their insurance companies are good enough to send them and provide themselves with the certificate required by the Road Traffic Acts, 1930 to 1936. The fact that from time to time they carelessly forget to do so, and thereby commit quite a number of distinct and separate offences, only goes to prove once more how far from perfectly conducted the actual world is. The fact that even Judges of the High Court are not immune from lapses of memory is perhaps an argument in favour of the proposition that in a well-conducted world they would not be allowed to drive motor-cars at all.
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Detective story connoisseurs will be delighted to know that war has not put an end to Mr. Hare's promising career of crime. In Tragedy at Law he combines a very ingeniously planned murder with an admirable description of the adventures and misadventures of a judge of the High Court on Assize and his entourage.
Those who like their detective stories to be something more than a kind of crossword puzzle will already have added Cyril Hare to the small list of their favourite authors. The best kind of detective story, we have always thought, is one which explores some particular part of the social scene. Miss Dorothy Sayers did this brilliantly in Murder Must Advertise; and Mr Hare does it with similar success in the present volume.
We think this is perhaps the best story Mr. Hare has yet written and we recommend it with confidence equally to lawyers and laymen.
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Judge William Barber's tour of the Southern Circuit starts off normally enough, with a calendar consisting of the usual array of cases. When a series of strange incidents occur Francis Pettigrew and Inspector Mallet are faced with a deadly puzzle. Originally published: London: Macmillan, 1999.… (more)

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