How much longer will readers be treated to new stories featuring irreverent and irascible London barrister Horace Rumpole? The character was created for British television in the 1970s by John Mortimer, who once said that he'd continue writing Rumpole tales only so long as actor Leo Kern could portray him on the tube. If Kern's death in July 2002 means that Rumpole Rests His Case
is the beginning of the end, then at least this series concludes on a high and humorous note.
The seven yarns collected here find the rumpled Rumpole defending his usual assortment of eccentric clients, while also fending off antismoking zealots, interior designers with a taste for lava lamps, and his domineering wife, Hilda ("known to me only as She Who Must Be Obeyed"). One story teams the elderly advocate with an elusive Afghan doctor who was smuggled into the U.K. in a crate of mango chutney, and now seeks to become a legal resident. In another, Rumpole investigates an assault, apparently committed by an unmanageable teenager with a poetic streak, while a third case has the barrister working for a hypocritical right-wing politician who, after first seducing away the wife of one of Rumpole's colleagues, is accused of a drug offense. Cleverest of all, though, is the title tale, in which a hospital-confined Rumpole builds the defense for one of his roommates, a "reformed" thief with an unlikely connection to the aged major who shot him during a residential break-in. With his own unreformed taste for claret and cheroots, Rumpole persists in being an entertaining, old-fashioned thorn in the silk-covered side of Britain's judicial system. Could somebody please tell Mortimer that it's too soon for this character to hang up his wig? --J. Kingston Pierce
From Publishers Weekly
Mortimer's many fans on both sides of the Atlantic will delight in Horace Rumpole's return after a six-year hiatus in this amusing collection of the gruff but lovable barrister's latest exploits. The familiar cheroot-puffing, claret-quaffing denizen of Old Bailey now faces the challenges of a new millennium-including illegal aliens, drug-dealing and fraudulent e-mails-as he defends a series of peculiar clients. In "Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces," Horace laments his reunion with a former blackmailer, now turned lord of the manor, whom Horace persuades to donate ill-gotten gains for the restoration of a church steeple. "Rumpole and the Asylum Seekers" has the barrister teamed up with an Afghan doctor who smuggled himself to England in a crate of chutney and now faces prison and torture if he is sent home. In the case of "Rumpole and the Camberwell Carrot," he rescues the career of a controversial politician branded with drug-use allegations by a seductive tabloid reporter. Next, in "Rumpole and the Teenage Werewolf," he comes to the aid of an alleged stalker whose e-mail address has somehow been usurped to harass a young coed. A courtroom collapse almost finishes his career in the title story, when wife Hilda ("She Who Must Be Obeyed") tries to keep him around their Froxbury Mansion flat ("decidedly not a mansion," regrets Horace) to help with the shopping. Using fade-ins for quick scene changes reminiscent of the popular PBS series Rumpole of the Bailey, Mortimer proves his wit is as sharp as ever; he and his hero deserve a hearty welcome back.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.