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Rumpole of the Bailey #14

Rumpole and the Reign of Terror

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John Mortimer's bestselling barrister is back, in his most timely case yet Just in case Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders gave fans the impression that the Great Defender was resting on his laurels, his new case sends him at full sail into our panicky new world. Rumpole is asked to defend a Pakistani doctor who has been imprisoned without charge or trial on suspicion of aiding Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, on the home front, She Who Must Be Obeyed is threatening to share her intimate view of her husband in a tell-all memoir. The result is Rumpole at his most ironic and indomitable, and John Mortimer at his most entertaining. Mortimer delivers another first class mystery. (A) -Entertainment Weekly As ever, Mortimer proves himself master of the bon mot, cutting aside, and glorious run-on sentence. . . . Another delightfully entertaining and thought-provoking novel. -The Boston Globe Send this page to a friend Printable version Copyright 2008 Penguin Group USA

192 pages, ebook

First published October 5, 2006

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About the author

John Mortimer

250 books200 followers
John Clifford Mortimer was a novelist, playwright and former practising barrister. Among his many publications are several volumes of Rumpole stories and a trilogy of political novels, Paradise Postponed, Titmuss Regained and The Sound of Trumpets, featuring Leslie Titmuss - a character as brilliant as Rumpole. John Mortimer received a knighthood for his services to the arts in 1998.

Rumpole of the Bailey
Rapstone Chronicles

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5 stars
408 (36%)
4 stars
432 (38%)
3 stars
244 (21%)
2 stars
23 (2%)
1 star
5 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews
Profile Image for Jill Hutchinson.
1,459 reviews105 followers
August 19, 2022
Rumpole of the Old Bailey strikes again!!!!! But this time he may have bitten off more than he can chew as he defends a well-loved Pakistani doctor who is accused of terrorism. The odds are stacked against him as the public is vocally against the physician and the courts are agreeing. Besides, Rumpole has to come up against his old enemy Justice "Mad Bull" Bullingham who is on the bench for the trial. The notorious and ubiquitous Timson family shows up, as one of their own is married to the doctor and even they are not happy with Rumpole since they don't like the doctor. Throw in a couple of twists, such as his wife She Who Must Be Obeyed, dallying with "Mad Bull" and deciding to write her memoirs, both to the horror of Rumpole. John Mortimer created one of fiction's most beloved characters when he created Horace Rumpole and I love these books to distraction. If you haven't read any of this series, please do so at your earliest convenience.
Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,226 followers
March 24, 2016
Every time I finish a Rumpole book, I figure "Well, that must be the last of them..." and then I find another! Having just taken the time to look over John Mortimer's list of Rumpole's, I see I've got about 9 or 10 more to go. Huzzah!

I love reading about the British legal system and viewing it through the eyes of that most lovable of curmudgeons, Horace Rumpole, a defense lawyer who believes a man is innocent until proven guilty. He's a hero for the oppressed, put-upon and wrongfully accused.

Granted, these Rumpole stories do get a bit cartoonish, what with the overly cruel judges and daft prosecutors, and then usually somewhere towards the end there's a Scooby Doo-like reveal ("I would've gotten away with it, if it weren't for you meddling kids!") as you'll often find in so many mysteries wherein the villain admits to the crime and gives himself away. At least Mortimer usually waits to use this story expedient until after the criminal is absolutely cornered, so it's not too annoying a tactic.

Rumpole and the Reign of Terror is a most interesting new addition to a series that started in the '70s. The subject matter has shifted with the times and now takes in the terrorism topic. London in the early 2000s was a target for terrorist activities and knee-jerk reactions were to be expected. Mortimer uses the tension, stress and terror of the general populous as a talking-point topic in order to produce yet another of his entertaining tales of the legal system at work.
Profile Image for Chris Gager.
1,958 reviews77 followers
October 29, 2019
This short tale will fill in a few days of open reading space and do the job nicely. Is there anyone out there who DOESN'T love Horace Rumpole of the Bailey????? Many hats off to Leo McKern for all his good work in all the things I've seen him in over the years. Movies, mostly.

Poor Rumpole, things are a bit dicey for him at the moment, but of course we know that all will come right at the end. The man is a legal knight with a conscience(and a booming voice) in a troubling modern and senselessly changing world. The story is always reliably amusing from page to page. NOT an easy thing to do, in my opinion.

So that's that and all's well at the end, although Hilda points out that Rumpole DID get lucky in court. HE points out to her that if things hadn't turned the way they did he'd have to have found another way to get at the truth. Meanwhile, the GOTCHA ending reminded me of many a "Perry Mason" episode.

- 3.5* rounds down to 3*. Perfect in its way, but small beer nevertheless.
May 6, 2015
John Clifford Mortimer wrote many books about Rumpole which became a very popular British tv series. Rumpole is a barrister who prefers the company of the crooks he defends to other lawyers and is at all times terrified of his wife, Hilda, who is known as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed. The books tell good stories and unlike real-life lawyers who represent whoever walks in the door with a cheque, Rumpole has morals. The books are good, entertaining reads with substance.
Profile Image for Diane.
156 reviews15 followers
February 8, 2009
Having thought I'd read all the Rumpole books, imagine my joy when I found a couple of new ones to buy with a Christmas gift certificate. Rumpole and the Reign of Terror is somewhat slight, but what it lacks in deep thought, it makes up for in wit. Surprisingly, the plot of the book centers around the British version of the Patriot Act, a travesty Rumpole, in his never-take-no-for-an-answer-way, is bound to correct.

While the book is fun to read, it does give short shrift to the real difficulties of overcoming the bureaucracy that must be built in to overcoming the Draconian measures instituted by the British government after the recent terrorist attacks. It would certainly take more than Rumpole's wit and dogged determination to get a man out into the light of day after his arrest for terrorism based on hearsay evidence. In fact, one has to ask where the real reign of terror holds sway, given these circumstances.

No one reads a Rumpole book for reality, however, even though through Rumpole, John Mortimer makes clear his contempt for those stripping people of constitutional rights. In that way, the book is quite satisfying. Add to that the chuckles that come with Rumpole's encounters with the stuffy denizens of his law office and the British courts and readers can find themselves whiling away a few pleasant hours with this Reign of Terror.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,792 reviews107 followers
December 11, 2013
You kind of forget how really good the Rumpole books can be - and this is a perfect little example. Especially with Mrs Rumpole locked in the box-room writing her memoirs (while not being romanced by Rumpole's nemesis of course). At the same time that Rumpole is proceeding with defending a Pakistani doctor suspected of terrorism. Who happens to have a connection to the infamous Timson family. Who have a big problem with him. Which means that Rumpole suddenly has a bit problem with cash flow.

Really should not have picked this up, but I'm having a lot of trouble resisting the lovely new Green Penguin Series. But all I've done to myself now is remind myself of another series I need to re-read from the start. As soon as I've finished all those other series I'm supposed to be reading from the start again.

Profile Image for Mike.
Author 32 books88 followers
February 10, 2009
I read this after reading about it in John Mortimer's obituary. I thought the Rumpole series ended a few years ago, when Rumpole has a heart attack in court and goes to argue his final brief before a judge from whom there is no appeal. I was surprised to find that there were at least two books after Rumpole Rests his Case.

I don't think this is Mortimer's best. Hilda's memoirs don't add much. But it's wonderful (though ultimately predictable) to see how Rumpole reacts to the post-9/11 emasculation of Britain's legal system.
Profile Image for Doreen.
2,451 reviews61 followers
March 7, 2016
12/20/08 Brilliant book: funny, topical, with a good mystery and courtroom/romantic drama to boot. There are several awfully convenient coincidences, but they don't distract from the over-all worth of the story. I didn't realize when I picked this book up at the thrift store that it was set in modern times (for some reason, I always thought the Rumpole novels to be more current with the Bertie Wooster milieu,) but it was a very pleasant surprise. If you thought the Patriot Act was absurdly fascistic, wait till you get a load of how the UK reacted to the London Underground bombings. Mortimer deals with this issue with all the good sense and humor that his creation, Rumpole, is known for.
571 reviews
March 16, 2017
A really fun mystery...quick, light reading. Set in a post 911 London besieged by terrorists. Forget about the facts that it is not too believable and that I suspected the ending. I will be reading more Rumpoles.
Profile Image for CQM.
211 reviews27 followers
June 9, 2021
Rumpole does it again. Taking care of various clients legal problems while also putting the government to the sword.
Also we get to hear a little of things from Hilda's point of view.
Top notch as always.
515 reviews1 follower
September 8, 2015
I've always loved the Rumpole series, in book form as well as on the BBC series starring Leo McKern. This book-length story is just as satisfying as the others, and well-recommended.
Profile Image for Jonkers Jonkers.
Author 6 books5 followers
December 10, 2015
I found this an easy read and quite enjoyable. The plot is very straightforward and the usual 'Rumpoleisms' are here.
113 reviews1 follower
March 10, 2018
It is possible the Rumpole magic is lost on me, so Mortimer-lovers might consider me hopeless. I had wanted to read the famous Rumpole stories for some time, and picked this up at a used book sale, only to realize later that the short-story form is where the most famous Rumpole tales can be found. So I started some of them as well, and still missed the magic. I definitely like Rumpole's cantankerous and roundabout-talking voice, and the short stories seem to be the right dosage, though even in the short stories I can't help but notice (with some detection) relatively little detection and/or legal brilliance, and a lot of arbitrary coincidence.

To read a novel-length Rumpole reminds me a little uncomfortably of reading a book to my kids where an author has unwisely stretched a charming picture book into a padded chapter book. Mortimer has taken on an important subject, the rush to abandon civil rights when a civilized nation is dealing with the mortal danger of terrorism. But in a novel length story (maybe more like a novella), the Rumpole wit doesn't go far enough to substitute for some actual suspense, and again Rumpole's success is mostly predicated on taking advantage of unlikely coincidences and the detection performed by other characters.
5 reviews1 follower
June 8, 2017
Rumpole and the Reign of Terror is a nice short read, filled with Mortimer's signature wit. I found the mystery plot line to be fairly simple, but Mortimer's writing style helped to keep the plot together, and moved it forward without getting stale. What I most enjoyed was not the the story's mystery element but it's wit, as Rumpole seeks to finds his way through a world he clearly does not understand. I was interested from the start, as I came to find the plot interesting and enjoyed it's sometimes dark but always witty humor. I found that though the book seeks to tackle modern problems it is able to do so while staying true to the Rumpole style and flair. I think that though this book has a weak mystery plot, it makes up for it by having a great wit that pokes fun at every aspect of modern society. In the end, this book is the humorous tale of one man seeking to correct injustice in an age of near Orwellian society.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
517 reviews36 followers
July 21, 2018
I haven't read a Rumpole novel in a while. I thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with this curmudgeonly character! I also enjoyed hearing from "She Who Must Be Obeyed," aka Rumpole's wife. Excerpts of her memoir were included throughout the book and were quite delightful! She didn't seem quite so formidable and harsh as Rumpole makes out. I quite liked her.

In this installment, Rumpole finds himself defending a doctor accused of being a terrorist. He challenged the assertion of the rights of the authorities to detain an accused terrorist without a fair trial and for, perhaps, an indeterminate amount of time. Timely and interesting subject matter indeed! As ever, Rumpole was sometimes quite comical and I enjoyed some hilarious moments. But, as the novel was heading to its conclusion, things became quite serious. Tension built and I was on on the edge of my seat waiting for the outcome. A well-written and entertaining read.
54 reviews
August 12, 2019
I have read almost all of the Rumpole books and the last two are coming up on my reading list in the next few days.

I have rated most of the books with five stars. I like this book, but...........

In general the Rumpole stories are a tasty mix of wit and courtroom drama with a dash of political or social commentary thrown in, but this book seemed to have far more political commentary than normal.

Rumpole (and I expect this aligns with John Mortimer's view) seems to have quite libertarian political views with a dash of social conservationism and little concern for political correctness.

While I totally agree with Rumpole/Mortimer's opposition to having our rights trampled by the "war on terrorism," this slightly more serious tone made the work a little bit less the escapist entertainment we have come to expect.

Also I did not really find the subplot about Hilda and the Mad Bull believable or entertaining.
550 reviews2 followers
July 14, 2021
This is a decent addition to the series, it is topical with the defendant being from Pakistan and he experiences prejudice because of where he is from. I like the interactions Rumpole has with his colleagues at the office and his clients because they show different aspects of his personality. Mrs Rumpole has a wider role in this book as well and I like that the author shows her perspective as opposed to just having Rumpole talk about her or the two of them having brief interactions when he goes home. The story was good but I figured out the solution before the end. I liked the book overall and would recommend it.
Profile Image for Neil Fulwood.
656 reviews9 followers
November 2, 2022
The Rumpole short stories are masterpieces of the form: concise, beautifully structured, bitingly satirical and bristling with characters the reader very quickly comes to cherish as old friends. The novels are a different kettle of fish, with Mortimer resorting to clumsy subplots and endless digressions to bulk up the word count. ‘R and the Reign of Terror’ is decidedly mid-tier stuff, its narrative reliant on coincidence, is big courtroom set piece curiously anaemic and the denouement all too pat. Still an easy and entertaining enough read, just a ways short of what Mortimer at his best is capable of.
Profile Image for Glen.
88 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2020
Mortimer is so in tune with the insults and abuses of authority. Even in the mannered courts of UK he captures the overwhelming tendency toward defending the 'establishment' and sacrificing those who are not immediately part of it. Good natured and well intended people simply don't object to going along with such things. But by hook and crook Rumpole manages to best the system again but the story beggars us to understand the abuse potential of these compromises on due process.
Profile Image for Julie Davis.
Author 4 books266 followers
December 3, 2017
An enjoyable piece of Rumpole-ia in which we see how the British legal system routinely deals with terrorism cases. Hint - not in the greatest way. Luckily Rumpole's long memory and experience are there to serve a hapless Pakistani doctor who has fallen into the legal system's clutches. I especially enjoyed the way the doctor is almost more British than the British.
Profile Image for Gheeta.
457 reviews
March 5, 2018
A quick and engrossing read. If you like Rumpole you won't be disappointed. Mortimer adds a twist by telling the story both from the perspective of She (via memoirs) and Rumpole. It's an interesting change of pace...also, the story is much more contemporary as it is set post 9/11 and post London terror attacks in the Underground.
Profile Image for Tate.
7 reviews
August 11, 2018
Even though I am not super into lawyer stories, this book was excellent. The plotline in the courtroom was very engrossing and exciting, yes, but there are so many more secrets and drama to be found outside of it. If you like fiction novels or mystery stories of any kind, even if you aren't into lawyer stories, I strongly recommend reading this and the rest of the Rumpole books.
Profile Image for John Peel.
Author 398 books138 followers
June 29, 2019
Rumpole - sarcastic as ever - is called upon to defend an accused terrorist in this story. He's not at all certain that his client is innocent, but he gives it his best shot. And, as anyone who knows Rumpole knows, his best shot is wicked and wonderful. This is a delightful romp (with serious overtones), culminating in a delicious court case that establishes the truth. An absolute joy to read.
11 reviews
November 14, 2019
Clever, witty, funny and human

Rumpole defends a terrorist, goes on a vacation, and Hilda writes her memoirs. As anyone who's had a 'career' can tell you, there are ups and downs. In this book, we see Rumpole battle a dreaded dearth of briefs and deal with a cool wind blowing through his marriage. Yet,he deals with it hilariously.
1,403 reviews
November 16, 2022
Rumpole is asked to defend a Pakistani doctor imprisoned without charge for terrorism. Rumpole battles the powers who, in the wake of 9-11, have removed some of the time honored rules of justice in an effort to protect us. Rumpole becomes a pariah for choosing to defend him, with even his wife and his most faithful clients wanting him to give up the case. Always fun, if a bit formulaic.
Profile Image for Hugh Coverly.
237 reviews6 followers
April 17, 2023
As all the Rumpole books this one is equally satisfying. Mortimer has brought everyone of his principle characters into play and with positive results. That Rumpole is involved in a case with serious impacts on both individuals and the larger society, but discovers in the end that it has a much more mundane but no less sinister cause. Very satisfying indeed.
851 reviews
December 28, 2018
Rumpole defends a man accused of being a terrorist. Those who like Rumpole will enjoy this.

Note on the audio version: It takes a while to get used to Bill Wallis’ reading – very strong British accent.
Profile Image for Sisley.
69 reviews
May 14, 2019
I love Rumpole! He and She Who Must are hilarious. I think it is interesting how— especially in this book— they cover real issues and topics constantly debated in real life! Its fun to be at the other end of a murder mystery!
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
652 reviews4 followers
February 4, 2022
A delight to listen to in the car. Every criminal lawyer should have a loyal criminal family to provide a steady income.

She who must be obeyed is really awful! I think I read one of these stories in the distant past, but I don't remember her being so very disloyal.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 113 reviews

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