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Rumpole Rests His Case by John Mortimer


Rating: (Recommended)


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The End?

Could Rumpole Rests His Case be the last book from John Mortimer about our favorite star of chambers and the Old Bailey? If so, readers will find about a week’s worth of stories on the pages of this book, and can savor each one carefully.

Here’s an excerpt from the story titled, “Rumpole and the Remembrance of Things Past” (p. 26-7)

There are no sadder relics of the past than the rows of small, semi-detached houses that line one of the western approaches to London. Once they were lived in and alive. Minis were washed on Sunday mornings inside their lean-to garages, bright dahlias and tea roses grew in their front gardens, their doorbells chimed and, on winter evenings, lights glowed from the stained-glass portholes in their front doors.

Now their blind windows are stuffed with hardboard, their front doors nailed up, their gardens piled with rubble and their garages collapsed. They are derelict victims of a long-delayed scheme to widen the main road, and some of these houses have already been pulled out like rotten teeth. When it came to be the turn of 35 Primrose Drive, a digger, prying up the sitting-room floor, lifted, with apparent tenderness, the well-preserved and complete skeleton of a young woman.

Reports were made to the police and the coroner's office.

D. I. Winthrop, an enthusiastic young officer, started an inquiry which led, to his great satisfaction, to the arrest of

William Twineham, the sole owner of the house since its birth in the sixties. Twineham's wife Josephine had, the D. I. discovered, vanished unaccountably some thirty-three years previously.

I was standing outside my Chambers in Equity Court, wearing my hat to protect the thinning top of my head from the drizzle and thinking, as my old darling Wordsworth would say, of old, unhappy, far-off things and crimes so long ago.

Around me in the doorways, under the arches or leaning against a sheltered wall, were many poor souls like me, driven out of doors. Most of them were girls. Short-skirted, high-heeled, with cigarettes dangling from their lips, they would seem to any passer-by to be ladies of the street, and the same casual observer might have been forgiven for supposing that the Outer Temple, home of the legal profession, had become a red-light district in the manner of downtown Amsterdam.

The casual observer would have been wrong. Neither they nor I were out of doors to offer sexual services. We were temporary exiles from Chambers which had become smoke-free zones.

The Inn was all for it, as was Soapy Sam Ballard. Mizz Liz Probert, who has now taken to coming to work on a daunting motorbike which pumps more gas into the atmosphere than a lifetime's small cigars, went over to the Green Party. Claude Erskine-Brown blamed my cheroots for the fact that his aunt had been flooded out by a climate change in Surrey. In vain I argued for the democratic rights of minorities. The smoking ban was introduced by a tyrannical majority, so I basked in the warmth of a small cigar as the rain settled in the brim of my hat.

'Loitering with intent, Rumpole?'

'Still polluting the atmosphere . . . ?'

Two grey, almost ghost-like figures approached through the rain. They were the opera-loving, wine-tasting, inadequate advocate Claude Erslane-Brown and none other than Soapv Sam Ballard, the unworthy Head of my Chambers.

Each story in this collection excites, and the question remains, is it true that Rumpole Rests His Case?

Steve Hopkins, December 23, 2002


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the January 2003 issue of Executive Times


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