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

TalkBritish & Irish Crime Fiction

Join LibraryThing to post.

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

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

1Eurydice
May 28, 2008, 12:45am

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?

2christiguc
May 28, 2008, 12:54am

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

3Eurydice
May 28, 2008, 12:57am

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.

4quartzite
May 28, 2008, 4:46pm

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.

5Eurydice
May 28, 2008, 11:49pm

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....

6reading_fox
May 29, 2008, 5:52am

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.

7Eurydice
Edited: May 31, 2008, 11:44am

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.

8Eurydice
May 29, 2008, 3:41pm

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.

9christiguc
May 29, 2008, 5:13pm

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

10quartzite
May 29, 2008, 5:18pm

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.

11Eurydice
May 30, 2008, 5:16pm

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. :)

12pamelad
May 31, 2008, 6:21am

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.

13christiguc
May 31, 2008, 10:46am

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. . .

14Eurydice
May 31, 2008, 11:48am

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.

15quartzite
May 31, 2008, 2:54pm

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

16Eurydice
May 31, 2008, 6:12pm

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

17christiguc
May 31, 2008, 10:43pm

>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.

18Eurydice
Jun 1, 2008, 12:12am

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

19nickhoonaloon
Edited: Jun 1, 2008, 9:34am

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.

20nickhoonaloon
Edited: Jun 1, 2008, 9:33am

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.

21Eurydice
Jun 1, 2008, 12:44pm

Interesting. Henry Cecil sounds appealing.

22nickhoonaloon
Jun 1, 2008, 3:14pm

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 !

23Eurydice
Jun 2, 2008, 3:11am

As do I!

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

24Romonko
Jan 9, 2011, 12:38pm

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

Join to post