When the experienced criminal barrister is Horace Rumpole we can expect hilarity along with a painless lesson in the highest ideals of British Justice. Published in 2006 when Rumpole’s alter ego and creator John Mortimer was 82 (Mortimer died in 2009 at age 85) this novel was Mortimer’s criticism of the anti-terrorism laws passed by the government of then Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Author John Mortimer with the latest installment of his most famous creation.
Rumpole, who has been about age seventy something since the mid 1990s, never changes. Neither does his wife Hilda and the entire cast of characters who practice law at Number 4 Equity Court. In this outing Hilda buys a laptop computer which she hides away in a spare bedroom while she writes her memoirs. There is a lot for Hilda to write about since Judge Bullingham, who Rumpole calls “The Mad Bull,” is actively pursuing Hilda after divorcing his wife.
‘Let me ask you this, Mr. Rumpole. How do you take notes in court nowadays?’
‘I use a pen and my notebook.’ I gave him a truthful answer.
‘A pen!’ The Bristol accent rose to a high pitch of contempt. ‘Would that be like . . . a quill pen by any chance?’
There were laughs from the audience, but I put him right.
‘No. It’s a fountain pen.’
‘Really. How very professional. So you’re not computer literate?’
‘I’m literate. I know very little about computers.’
‘That’s the trouble with your sort of lawyer, Mr. Rumpole. You can’t move with the times. Things like jury trials and the presumption of innocence may have been all very well in their day. But times change. History moves on. We need quicker and more reliable results. Modernize, Mr. Rumpole. That’s what you need to do.’
Needless to say when it comes to the sacred rights guaranteed to Englishmen since King John issued Magna Carta, Rumpole will never compromise.