RogerBW's Blog

Tragedy at Law, Cyril Hare 17 May 2020

1942 mystery, first in the series centred on Francis Pettigrew, a not-terribly-successful barrister. The anonymous letters arriving for the High Court Judge while he's out on circuit are obviously the work of a lunatic; the poisoned box of chocolates is less easily dismissed.

That said, though, the actual murder doesn't happen until nearly the end of the book – though there are plenty of near misses – and it's unfortunate that the narrative largely lacks sympathetic characters. Everyone, Pettigrew most certainly not excepted, is portrayed as quite remarkably stupid the instant they step outside their areas of expertise (if any).

On the other hand, the detail of the business of a circuit judge is well-observed and rather fascinating (Hare, or rather Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark, worked as a judge's marshal at about this time). It's not hurt by being set during the Phoney War, so the normal routines are disrupted by the advent of rationing and the arrival of unreasonable numbers of Canadian soldiers.

But the fact remained, odious and inescapable. There were no trumpeters. War with all its horrors was let loose upon the earth and His Majesty's Judge must in consequence creep into his car with no more ceremony than an ambassador or an archbishop. Chamberlain had flown to Godesberg and Munich and pleaded for them, but in vain. Hitler would have none of them. The trumpeters must go.

To be sure of the solution to the mystery takes knowledge of quite a fine legal point, in a way that reminded me of Unnatural Death though the detail is quite different. On the other hand, picking the right murderer by other means isn't much of a challenge.

"For sixpence you can get at any bookshop in the city a local handbook with a complete plan of the building, showing all the principal rooms, including, of course, the Judge's lodgings. That's because this is an Ancient Monument. All I can say is, Ancient Monuments  are all very well in their proper places, which is museums, but they have no call to put Judges in them and expect the police to guard them. If you'll excuse my saying so, my lord."

The book drags a little, but I at least found the period detail quite well able to compensate for the unpleasantness of the people.

[Buy this at Amazon] and help support the blog.

Series: Francis Pettigrew | Next in series: With a Bare Bodkin

Comments on this post are now closed. If you have particular grounds for adding a late comment, comment on a more recent post quoting the URL of this one.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio audio tech aviation base commerce battletech beer boardgaming book of the week bookmonth chain of command children chris chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup covid-19 crime cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama driving drone ecchi economics espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 essen 2017 essen 2018 essen 2019 existential risk falklands war fandom fanfic fantasy feminism film firefly first world war flash point flight simulation food garmin drive gazebo genesys geocaching geodata gin gkp gurps gurps 101 gus harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo 2018 hugo 2019 hugo 2020 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life javascript julian simpson julie enfield kickstarter kotlin learn to play leaving earth linux liquor lovecraftiana lua mecha men with beards museum music mystery naval noir non-fiction one for the brow opera parody paul temple perl perl weekly challenge photography podcast politics postscript powers prediction privacy project woolsack pyracantha python quantum rail raku ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs ruby rust science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans smartphone south atlantic war squaddies stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance the weekly challenge thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel type 26 type 31 type 45 vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1