Popular Penguins Rumpole And The Penge Bungalow Murders Paperback – Apr 3 2012
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From Publishers Weekly
Mortimer's beloved barrister, Horace Rumpole, at last tells the tale, hitherto mentioned only in passing, of the Penge Bungalow murders, the case that made his reputation as a defense lawyer decades ago. Simon Jerold stands accused of shooting his father, a bomber pilot during WWII, and an RAF buddy of his father's some hours after a quarrel in which Simon threatened his father with a German Luger. Simon appears headed for the gallows with perfunctory defense from C.H. Wystan, Rumpole's by-the-book head of chambers. Leave it to young Rumpole, an inexperienced "white wig," to see a chink or two in the prosecution's case and step up to Simon's defense, even at the risk of ruffling his supercilious superior's feathers. Subplots include the farcical circumstances that lead the romantically challenged Rumpole to become engaged to Wystan's daughter, Hilda (aka "She Who Must Be Obeyed"), and his introduction to the felonious Timson family, one of whose hapless members he defends in an unrelated burglary trial—which incidentally provides a clue to a key motive of one of the principals in the murder case. If a British airman circa 1942 committing treason in the belief that Hitler was going to win the war isn't entirely convincing, Mortimer (Rumpole and the Primrose Path) never fails to delight.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* One of the longest-running jokes in series fiction has been Horace Rumpole's oft-repeated reference to his triumph in the Penge Bungalow case, which he defended in the Old Bailey "alone and without a leader." Fans long tantalized by references to the great legal case of the postwar years now can have a novel-length bath in it. Rumpole, shocked that the newbies in chambers have never heard of this case (they are even a little vague about the identity of Churchill, he feels), commits it to memoir. Mortimer thus gives us two Rumpoles here: the singularly acerbic old Rumpole, still moving through Chambers and the Old Bailey, but also wryly commenting on young "white wig" Rumpole--acerbic, fond of quoting Romantic poets, yes; but also ambitious ("craven," old Rumpole calls it); and very nervous. A lot of mysteries are cleared up along the way: for example, how the criminal family, the Timsons, first fell into Rumpole's lap; how his wife, Hilda ("She Who Must Be Obeyed"), first darkened his door; and the origin of the term "Chateau Thames Embankment." The Penge Bungalow case itself is a rip-snorter: two RAF fliers living next to each other in bungalows right after World War II are both murdered with a German pistol; the accused is the son of one of the victims. Masterful characterization and a spellbinding plot, filled with the arcane lore and intrigues of the Old Bailey, make this one a special treat for devoted Rumpoleans. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
If you know Rumpole, you know that he stakes his reputation in the Old Bailey on winning the Penge Bungalow Murders case. But until now, you didn't know about the case. Here's your chance to find out.
During a drunken evening, Simon Jerold was threatened with embarrassment and grabbed a gun to stop matters, proclaiming that he would kill his father. The next morning, both father and a friend who lived nearby were found shot to death with the gun. Jerold delayed in calling the police, and he seems headed for a hangman's rope.
Young Horace Rumpole gains an unexpected opportunity to be the junior barrister on the case after he unintentionally attracts the attention of future wife, "She Who Must Be Obeyed," daughter of the head of chambers. Normally juniors are seen and not heard. That's not likely in the case of Rumpole and you'll love how he ends up defending the case without a QC to "lead" him. In the process, there's lots of good fun poked at how lawyers and judges look out for one another rather than their clients.
Rumpole "solves" the case in the best tradition of Perry Mason. But that's the least of the fun in this origin story that no Rumpole fan should miss.
I listened to the Bill Wallis reading of the book and enjoyed every charmingly accented word.
Now, Horace is in superb form. Nothing wrong with our Rumpole. But I was expecting a different case than the one his scribe John Mortimer put to paper.
First off: the doctor. According to one of the former stories, Rumpole had the fine forensic assistance of a doctor (whose son Rumpole later got off the charge of wife murder) He wasn't there.
2nd) Three Fingers Doherty does not seem the same man. His 'Three fingers' nickname was given him for a different reason here than the reason Rumpole gave it in an earlier story.
Hilda, however is wonderfully masterful, even as a young woman.
And how Rumpole won, alone and without a leader, is classic Rumpole.
But it seems somehow a very gloom laden story - as if Horace, in his wheelchair awaiting summons to his last court appearance, no longer found satisfaction in recalling it.
Is this the last Rumpole story?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
John Mortimer's latest Rumpole story, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders takes us back to the great barrister's first big case. The story is told looking back after a conversation in chambers convinces Rumpole to write his memoirs. The story jumps back and forth between Rumpole's recollections of events interrupted only by the occasional (but highly amusing) bit of conversation with Hilda, she who must be obeyed, and his colleague in chambers.
It is the early 1950s and Rumpole is young, eager, and ready to begin his career as a trial lawyer (barrister). He has found himself working for C.J. Wystan, the head of his chambers (firm) and the father of an assertive young daughter named Hilda. Simon Jerrold has been arrested and accused of the murder of his father and one of his father's friends. Each of the deceased flew for the Royal Air Force during the Second World War and this was of no small consequence for the national press. All the evidence available points to Simon as the murderer. A conviction seems a certainty to all, including Simon's lead defense attorney, Wystan. Wystan has selected Rumpole to act as a silent assistant after Hilda suggests for some unknown reason that Rumpole is a man with a future in the law. It should surprise no one that Rumpole does not bow down to the conventional wisdom concerning his client's guilt. The story takes us through the remarkable series of events through which Rumpole assumes control of the defense and takes the case through trial.
As always, Mortimer writes with wit and verve. Mortimer first describes the appearance of Wystan as one that made him think of a "lobster who had been snatched from a peaceful existence at the bottom of the sea and plunged into boiling water." Followed immediately by a slight retraction, "but I have no wish to be overly critical of my future father-in-law."
By taking us back to his first case as a callow, slender youth Mortimer has invigorated and fleshed out (no pun intended) Rumpole considerably. We first came to know Rumpole as an aging overweight, hen-pecked curmudgeon who adheres to obsolete concepts of justice and the presumption of innocence when all around him expediency and decorum prevails. Mortimer shows us flashes of this in Penge Bungalow. We see the character traits: the wit, sarcasm and sense of fair play in its formative stages. We also find out how the young Ms. Hilda Wystan became the infamous she who must be obeyed. It is clear that once Hilda set her mind on something she is not easily denied.
The beauty of the Penge Bungalow Murders is our glimpse of Rumpole as a young man. His character is immediately recognizable. His body may have changed but his inner-self has remained constant. As one of Rumpole's favorite authors once said in Merchant of Venice, "I never knew so young a body with so old a head."
Rumpole and Penge Bungalow Murders is an excellent book and I have no hesitation in recommending it.
Rumpole quickly learns that the jurisprudence system is a haven for corrupt barristers trying to squeeze pounds out of helpless and at times innocent criminals. He drops the gloves applying his saber wit on opponents as he defends his client with his belligerent in your face manner. He will use that technique for the next five decades defending the downtrodden against powerful opponents except Hilda Wyston who he has just met through her father and quickly becomes known as "She Who Must Be Obeyed".
This is a terrific Rumpole legal thriller that fans of the series will fully treasure due to the documenting of his first case referenced in many of the short stories. The deep support cast consists of "felons" from all sides of the legal systems, family members, and lest we forget the client. Though newcomers will feel aspects of the case and the protagonist's background seem missing (a tendency to rely on references in other books), readers will find pleasure with the character driven case that fans have wanted for seemingly almost as long a time as the hero looks back.
..and, after two collections of stories, it finally appeared.
So it was with some sadness that I took to Reading "The Penge Bungalow Murders" realizing it would probably be the last Mortimer would do for old Rumpole. My sorrow was compounded only slightly because it appears to me that Sir John phoned this one in. As others have pointed out, this episode seemed a somewhat flat and rather perfunctory effort; seemingly a work where all of the questions were being answered and the loose ends were being tied up.
We see how Rumpole became involved with the Timpsons. How he and Hilda became entwined (she played a far more important role in Rumpole's success and chambers' affairs than we could ever imagine), what an insufferable, doddering dolt her father and head of chambers, C. H. Wystan, was and how Horace developed his acerbic wit and contempt for the mediocrity passed off as "the finest traditions of the bar".
Why the five stars?
Because I cannot bear to rate it less. A Rumpole yarn, whether on or off, is a damned good read.
Like they say, the worst day fishing is better than the best day at work.
It was a marvelous run and sad that it probably has come to an end.
The novel takes place in the present day with the story of Rumpole's most famous case being told through the pages of his memoirs, which he has decided to write for the sake of posterity. In addition, we are privy to Rumpole's introduction to the famous Timson clan (whose career of petty crime has kept Rumpole busy over the decades) and their archenemies, the Molloys. There's also plenty of humour here, as one would expect--particularly as this memorable chapter in Rumpole's life coincided with the meeting of his equally memorable wife-to-be, Hilda (whose daddy, C.H. Wystan, was head of chambers at the time)! We also, perhaps a little surprisingly, get a glimpse into Rumpole's pre-Hilda love-life! As for the main story, it is engrossing enough to draw the reader right in. Personally, I couldn't put the book down and gave up trying. One reason it is so good is that there is only the one primary story so Mortimer has had enough time and space to develop it more fully than is often the case.
I've said nothing about the actual story--the "murders"--because I don't wish to give anything away. Suffice it to say that if you've enjoyed the Rumpole series (whether on television or in print), this novel is a must read. It's a short one (my hardcover version is only 214 pages of fairly large print), but it's one that is a pleasure to curl up with, and it's certainly one that I will be rereading down the road. It is as good as any Rumpole story, but because it's so unusual, what with John Mortimer taking us back in time to that famous case--as well as the meeting of She Who Must Be Obeyed!--I have to say it's my personal favourite.
Very highly recommended!
Reading news reports from Europe lately, it's possible to wonder whether there will always be an England. However, reading this book makes me certain there will always be a Rumpole.