£16.99, Little, Brown
This book is written by John Fairfax, the pen name of William Brodrick who practised as a barrister before becoming a full-time novelist. Under his own name he is a previous winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award and his first novel was a Richard and Judy selection. We are told that this is the first of several books which will become a television series.
The story begins with hero William Benson being convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. During the trial he meets Tess, a work-experience student who believes in his innocence.
Sixteen years later Benson has been released and admitted as a barrister. Setting up his own chambers he is instructed to defend a woman accused of murder in a similarly hopeless case. Tess works with Benson and the courtroom drama unfolds; meanwhile, Tess investigates the crime of which Benson had been convicted.
There are some nice touches about how Benson survived prison, and the devastating courtroom cross-examination is the stuff of an advocate’s dreams. The forensic science technicalities are interesting and well-handled. The issue of whether Benson should be allowed to be rehabilitated at all and the tensions between the leading characters make the book a fast-paced, courtroom page-turner with plenty of twists and surprises. The premise of a murderer becoming a barrister is original, if slightly far-fetched, but having said that it is an enjoyable read.
David Pickup is a partner at Pickup and Scott Solicitors, Aylesbury