It took me awhile to get into this book, but about halfway through it captured my interest. I had no previous exposure to this series of books so it took me awhile to become familiar with the characters. At first I was put off by the British stuffiness that permeates the narrative. But after awhile it was apparent that the story was making fun of that stuffiness.
The story centers around a young defense attorney (Horace Rumpole in early career) who is an assistant to an older more experienced attorney defending a double murder suspect. The older lead attorney believes that it's a hopeless case so the best they can do is refrain from irritating the Judge or jury. He plans to do this by not asking needless questions. The defendant is unhappy with this passive defense, fires the lead attorney and hires the young and inexperienced Rumpole to defend him. Rumpole to his credit has wanted to ask questions that could lead to some discrepancies in the prosecution's case, but he has no specific plan of how to save his defendant from the gallows. (Apparently Great Britain still had capital punishment in the late 1940s.)
As is true in many similar stories (a la Perry Mason) it seems that the best detective work takes place during the trial. Shouldn't the gathering of evidence take place before the trial? Well, in murder trial mysteries, that's not the way it's done.
Toward the end of the book the reader learns how Rumpole became engaged to be married. It's a cute story, but hardly a romance.
It is my intention to read or listen to at least one murder mystery per year in order to add diversity to my reading list. So this may be it for me this year. Below is the review from PageADay's Book Lover's Calendar that got me interested in this book.
For those of us who have been following the irascible barrister Horace Rumpole these many years both on television and in print (12 story collections are out now), John Mortimer has at last gratified our curiosity not only about the oft-cited Penge Bungalow murder case that made Rumpole’s reputation, but also about such crucial matters as how he first came to represent his most reliable clients, the Timsons; and how he met and married “She Who Must Be Obeyed,” Hilda Rumpole. If none of this makes sense to you, go find a Rumpole book, any Rumpole book, and get ready to smile.
RUMPOLE AND THE PENGE BUNGALOW MURDERS, by John Mortimer