Jack Kowalski is down on his luck. Racked by stage fright whenever he gets near a courtroom, Kowalski fears he is on borrowed time at Century Buildings in Manchester following an unimpressive pupillage. What’s more, he knows head of chambers Sarah Dale ‘didn’t think much of him’. His despair deepens when he loses a bail application and, lamenting that his career is in free fall, is full of remorse that ‘his father has scrimped and saved to buy his wig and gown’.
And Kowalski is ribbed by high-flying Paramount Chambers barrister Lionel Katterman QC who ‘knew how to connect with people… that’s why juries loved him’.
When National Crime Agency officers intercept cocaine flown into Manchester from Venezuela via Spain, arresting Carl Marpit who is unloading drugs from the plane, Kowalski unexpectedly gets the chance to resurrect his career. This means defending Marpit in the subsequent trial that also involves drug dealers Rako and Purley. Marpit, though, protests that he was a participating informant of the NCA, and, with the defendants blaming one another, Kowalksi faces the challenge of pulling off a cut-throat defence. While Kowalski gets bail for Marpit, his client later absconds and the barrister faces the dilemma of whether or not to defend him in his absence.
Jarvis’ punchy dialogue and control of his material sweeps Kowalski from courtroom to dodgy areas of Manchester. We learn about Acer Spears, a bouncer at Milo’s lap-dancing bar in Salford, and Sauvignon Don, or Elvis Boyle, one of the biggest crime bosses in the UK – and a mysterious character known as Wolfy.
Descriptions are memorable too: ‘Moss Side was a sprawling estate with countless narrow ginnels and snickets.’
Author: Olly Jarvis
£2.48 (Kindle edition)
While Cut-throat Defence is plot-driven, Jarvis is also pretty nifty at characterisation. Take the emotional entanglement of Kowalski and Lara Panassai, his instructing solicitor from Dobkin and Co, as they not only battle against the odds to get Marpit off the hook but also seek to uncover more about the mysterious deaths of her parents in a car crash. And Kowalski’s former pupil-master, Simon Huntsman, urges him to pull his act together at a critical time: ‘You’re a criminal barrister. We see tragedy and pain every day. Hatred.’
Even when discussing the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act or public interest immunity, Jarvis’ light touch keeps you engrossed all the way to the enthralling conclusion.
Nicholas Goodman is a sub-editor at the Law Society Gazette