Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


Rumpole Misbehaves by John Mortimer








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John Mortimer continues to write Rumpole stories, to the delight of readers around the world. The latest novella, Rumpole Misbehaves, finds one of the Timson clients slapped with an ASBO: an anti-social behavior order. Rumpole’s chamber mates also slap him with such an order for his smoking, eating and drinking in chambers. Rumpole delights as he gets the case of someone accused of murdering a prostitute. Amid these distractions, Rumpole, as usual, gets to the heart of what is really going on. Here’s an excerpt, from the beginning of Chapter 4, pp. 23-5:

The case Bonny Bernard had sent me seemed in the best tradition of English murders since the far-off days of jack the Ripper and the Camden Town affair. The tragedy of the unfortunate girls who go on the game is that they all too easily fall victim to manual strangulation.

The difference between these classic cases and the brief I was eagerly noting was that, in my present case, a death in Flyte Street, a small turning off Sussex Gardens near to Paddington Station, the alleged culprit was arrested in the dead girl's room and there seemed to be no mystery about it.

My client was Graham Wetherby, thirty-three, single, a clerk in a government department He had an address in Morden, on the outskirts of London, and, according to his statement, he lived alone in a bed-sitting room, travelling up every day to Queen Anne's Gate and the Home Office.

The case against Wetherby was a simple one. On the date in question he telephoned the address in Flyte Street where Ludmilla Ravenskaya, a Russian immigrant, carried on her profession. His call was answered by Anna McKinnan, who acted as Miss Ravenskaya's maid and was the main wit­ness for the prosecution. My client left his work at lunchtime and just before one he was admitted to the house in Flyte Street for a brief, expensive and, as things turned out, totally disastrous tryst.

The entry phone at the front door invited him up to a room on the second floor. Once there he dealt with Anna McKinnan, the maid, and paid over to her the £110 he had saved up for a brief moment of passion.

From then on McKinnan's evidence was clear. She told Graham Wetherby that he could go into the small sitting room and wait, and Ludmilla, the ‘young lady’, would come out to him. If she didn't come in a reasonable time he could knock on the bedroom door to announce his presence, because her mistress was alone and had no one else in with her. Accordingly, he went into the sitting room. Some twenty minutes later, McKinnan heard her ‘young lady’ screaming. She hurried into the sitting room and described what she saw.

The bedroom door was open and Wetherby was standing by the bed, on which the ‘young lady’ lay partially dressed. She could see red marks round her neck and she was lying across the bed in an attitude the maid called ‘unnaturally still’.

Wetherby said nothing, but Anna McKinnan, according to her evidence, acted quickly. She went and locked the sitting-room door, making my client a prisoner. While he was shouting and hammering at the door, she telephoned the police from a phone in the kitchen.

A detective inspector, a woman officer and a police doctor arrived at the flat surprisingly quickly, no more than an hour later. McKinnan was able to tell them that she had seen Ludmilla alive and laughing over a cup of tea after her previous customer had departed.


Mortimer’s fine writing continues to shine on the pages of Rumpole Misbehaves. Fans and newcomers alike will find this to be great entertainment.


Steve Hopkins, February 21, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the March 2008 issue of Executive Times


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