Summary Justice

Written by John Fairfax

Review written by Pippa McAllister


Summary Justice
Little, Brown
RRP: £16.99
Released: March 2 2017
HBK

This is the first book in a proposed series introducing William Benson, barrister, and Tess de Vere, who has a consultancy contract with Coker & Dale, Solicitors.

William Benson is no ordinary barrister because he is also a convicted murderer, making him a controversial figure. From the moment of his sentencing, William decided to study for the Bar. In spite of his Counsel trying to discourage him, he persisted and his determination earned him a law degree whilst he was in prison. Subsequently, he was turned down on his application to join the Inner Temple and again on first appeal; but he turned to the Visitors to the Inns of Court, a seldom convened body of Appeal Court judges, and successfully argued his case. William, who had always protested his innocence, had to admit his guilt in order to pursue his legal ambitions.

Tess played a very junior role in William's defence, but has had no contact or news of him for several years. Accidentally, she hears that he is defending his first murder case; a case that it seems is impossible for him to win. She makes contact and can't resist getting involved, to the consternation of Coker & Dale.

The murder defendant has dismissed her previous team at short notice, feeling that they didn't believe her. She engages William because she thinks he will understand but he faces strong evidence and a formidable barrister. Outside the case, the family of William's victim and a public campaign try to get retrospective legislation to prevent William and other ex-offenders from practising. William's determination and the help of his small team keep the outcome of the case in the balance. As the trial progresses, secrets and lies are revealed before the denouement.

There are some interesting characters along the way: Needles, William's first cellmate; Archie, the ex-con who becomes his clerk; and Tess, clever, gregarious and headstrong. William is a complex character, detached, determined, and sympathetic, and who has tried to help his fellow prison inmates, but perhaps there is something not totally likeable about him.

I read almost all this book in one sitting because it flowed so well. I am uncertain whether the scenario of William being accepted at the Bar is possible but it made for an interesting story. William's back story is partially told but there are hints of more to come. The author is an established and award-wining writer with a legal background, writing here under a pseudonym.

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