Whether you enjoy the books or only know of that dishevelled, curmudgeonly, cheroot-smoking Old Bailey barrister from the television/video series starring the late Leo McKern, you are in for a real treat with this, the latest in the Rumpole series by author John Mortimer. After all, is there any fan out there who has not wondered about the story behind the immortal "Penge Bungalow Murders" to which Rumpole is always referring--the case he did "alone and without a leader" whilst still a junior? Well, here it is, in all its glory--and what an enjoyable story it is!
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!