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Book Review: Rumpole of the Bailey by John Mortimer

Rumpole of the Bailey

Rumpole of the Bailey, written by John Mortimer, is a set of funny short stories adapted from a British television series of the same name. If you are looking for a light-hearted short story to read to pass time on the train, I fully recommend this series.

Rumpole of the Bailey chronicles the story of Horace Rumpole, a 68-year-old barrister who is reminiscing about six of the most interesting cases that have occurred in his life. Set in London, Rumpole defends individuals of all backgrounds and definitely prefers a good criminal case to a divorce case. He has a tendency to quote Wordsworth at the most odd times, calls his wife Hilda, “She who must be obeyed”, and has a love for his broken-down hat.

The cases that Rumpole recollects range from a robbery to a drug mishap to murder. The prime example of the type of people that Rumpole defends includes the Timson family, which has a reputation for getting into trouble. Rumpole, who acts for this whole family, tries to get Jim, the son of the infamous “Fred Timson, star of a dozen court appearances” off an alleged robbery. The intricate and humorous way in which Mortimer writes about these cases definitely makes Rumpole of the Bailey a worthwhile read.

The style and well-written nature of the short stories allow the readers to grow to love the charming character of Horace Rumpole. Despite drinking excessively, smoking cigars and overreacting to the flu, he is always up for a good case.

Rumpole always uses his wit and clever tactics to try and triumph over his opposition. In one of his short stories, the judge does not appreciate this witty tactic, which results in an entertaining cross-examination. Whilst being a humorous read, Rumpole also goes through some of the challenges associated with being a member of the legal profession.

Overall, this was an entertaining and light-hearted read, which also managed to provide insight into the British legal system and inner-workings of barristers’ chambers. The British wit and secondary characters truly made this all-rounded novel and a great read on a rainy day.

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