Bloodhound Books, £9.99
Experienced solicitor Natalie Bach returns to Manchester after an unhappy experience in Mallorca. She’s back at home living with her mum and working at her old firm, Goldman Law, but no longer in her previous prestigious position. She has a strong friendship with the firm’s founder, Jack Goldman, whom she regards as a mentor. When his wayward son Julian gets in trouble with the police, Natalie becomes enmeshed in his case.
Caro Land is a former Manchester solicitor who now writes full-time. As Caroline England she pens domestic psychological thrillers. Convictions is the first Natalie Bach story.
An advantage of being a lawyer and a writer is that readers have confidence in descriptions of the legal world. Land does not disappoint, particularly in her evocation of petty office rivalries that add grit to the working day. She describes well the buzz from a challenging case. ‘It was good to have a purpose, it felt great to be nervous’; and that feeling after a stupid, possibly disastrous, mistake: ‘She didn’t know one lawyer who hadn’t had a hot under the collar moment’. References to billing, old files and the cost draughtsman, take us into the heart of the solicitor’s world.
The book is set in and around Manchester, an area the author clearly knows well, and the geography of the place is pleasingly detailed. Goldman Law is a Didsbury firm and the action moves between Alderley Edge, Wilmslow and Cheadle, with the inevitable traffic difficulties along the Macclesfield and Stockport roads.
Natalie is not a criminal lawyer. This presents a problem I recognise from my own books – how does a civil lawyer get mixed up in a criminal case and then sort it out? Land resolves this by having Natalie poke her nose into other people’s cases, specifically via a lawyer in a different firm. ‘Potential conflict of interest!’ I shouted as I read it.
It takes a while for the action to start, but there are a satisfying number of G&Ts drunk and events where alcoholic excess is de rigueur. But Natalie’s diet is mainly sandwiches – dashing from the office, to court, to the police station, she has no time for anything else.
The publicity for the book highlights Natalie Bach’s feminism. But as I read it I thought, is this significant? Most women lawyers are of necessity feminist, since we all have to deal with (to a greater or lesser extent), sexist comments, jokes and a reluctant approach when handing out the work.
This is a breezy read, with a constant level of tension.
Elizabeth Woodcraft is a barrister and author