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Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders by John Mortimer

Publishers: Viking, Penguin Books ISBN: 0670033561

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan, New Mystery Reader

The latest from John Mortimer’s Rumpole series, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders is something extraordinary- true the wit and wisdom is still there, true the humorous sarcasm is still there, but for the first time Mortimer offers a full length novel featuring everyone’s favorite fictional barrister Horace Rumpole.

The Rumpole books were a staple diet of mine especially in the law school years. And I had made it a point to read (and relish) each and every Rumpole Short Story Collection, right from Rumpole of the Bailey to the recently published Rumpole and the Primrose Path. In the Penge Bungalow Murders, John Mortimer takes us through flashback of one of the most famous trials Rumpole defended, the one which made him famous and a legend in the Old Bailey, ‘the Penge Bungalow Murder Trial.’

The novel starts with old Rumpole deciding to write in his Memoirs about his famous victory- and the rest is told in flashback. Young ‘White Wig’ Rumpole is just days into his practice and is attached to the Chambers of C.H. Wystan. Wystan is a good lawyer, who believes in the majesty of justice, and the finest tradition of the Bar- but often justice and advocacy becomes a casualty in his hands- because of his relentless effort to keep up with the greatest tradition of the Bar. And when he is appointed as counsel to defend young Simon Jerrold, accused of a double murder, one of the victims being Jerrold’s own father- Wystan believes the trial to be just a formality and that it’s a foregone conclusion that young Simon will get the noose. However, Rumpole doesn’t want to leave the case as it is. An opportunity he gets, Rumpole gears into action- and Simon Jerrold is sooooooo impressed that he fires Wystan and appoints Rumpole as his lead counsel.  How Rumpole achieves the great victory, and how Rumpole becomes the Rumpole we now know, forms the further theme of the work.

Another interesting aspect of the novel, rather a sidetrack is the story of how Rumpole got married to She Who Must Be Obeyed (his wife Hilda). The various lacunae and the odd bits and ends which we felt were missing in the various short stories are deftly and dexterously connected and revealed in this novel.

The last three Rumpole collections-carried the ominous touch of whether it would be the last of Rumpole. Rumpole Rests his Case, sure I thought (in 2001) was the end of the series- I was wrong; with Rumpole and the Primrose Path I was doubly sure (2002), and again I was proved wrong- whether Penge Bungalow Murders will be the last Rumpole work?

I am not answering, I hope not, watch this space

Penge Bungalow Murders is Highly, highly recommended.


Convenient Disposal by Steven F. Havill: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader 

Under sheriff Estelle Reyes Guzman has been called to the Posadas Middle School because Deana Hurtado, a student, has been caught with a deadly weapon, a 6 inch hat pin sharpened at one end.  Deana and Carmen Acosta fought over a boy and Deana feels she needs to protect herself.  Later that afternoon Estelle is called to the Acosta home where she finds Carmen savagely beaten and a hat pin shoved into her ear and through her head. While processing the crime scene, deputies discover that the Acosta' s next door neighbor, County Commissioner Kevin Ziegler, is missing.  Did Ziegler assault Carmen and run?  Did Carmen see something happen to Ziegler and pay the price?  Every police officer in the village and county work around the clock to solve these crimes.

A magnificent novel set in southern New Mexico, with a very tightly woven plot filled with detailed police procedure.  Havill knows New Mexico and it's people.  He very compassionately writes about Estelle and and her relationships with her family and co workers.  Readers will anxiously await the next Havill novel.


A Bond With Death by Bill Crider

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312322968

A Bond With Death by Bill Crider: Reviewed by Donna Padilla, New Mystery Reader

Professor Sally Good is head of the English Department at Hughes Community College and her job is not always easy.  She had been responsible for getting Harold Curtin, an alcoholic professor, fired for striking a student.  Also, she had been the strongest defender when Mothers Against Witchcraft had tried to get the Harry Potter books banned from the library.  Now someone has sent an e-mail claiming that Sally is descended from Sarah Good, who was hanged for witchcraft in Salem in 1692.  Very shortly she learns that Harold Curtin is dead and the rumor mill is all about witchcraft.

Sally Good is a character with a good sense of logic and a good sense of humor.  She and other faculty members begin speculating about Curtin's death and run into all kinds of problems with school administration and the police, and Sally is almost killed; but persistent as she is, she doesn't give up.

Those readers who like nosey females who cannot stop themselves from meddling in murder investigations will love this one, a cozy and clean mystery of good fun, it's a fast and spirited read.


I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass by Paul Charles

Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur ISBN: 0312319029

I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass by Paul Charles: Reviewed by Marcus Brandt, New Mystery Reader

“I love the sound of breaking glass” is the story of a music industry big shot that turns up missing, then dead, and the efforts of a hard-boiled, but sensitive detective to solve the case. 

I enjoyed this book a lot. There was little of the fantastical or implausible that ruins many mysteries: The characters, including the main one, and the situations and unfolding of the plot seemed quite believable.  This story could have happened in real life. The many little asides, relevant to the story or not, about the realities of the music industry were refreshing and amusing.  In fact, quite a bit of the book was quite humorous, making one laugh at the foibles of everyday life. And the subplot (which I’ll not divulge here) leant a humanity to the story that I appreciated. I could have used a little more of a twist at the end, but very highly recommended, especially if you have an interest in the music business.