Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
When it appears that a scandal is threatened it is clear that self-preservation is the order of the day no matter who may be standing in the way. This is what happens when Kenneth Gaskell a member of the same set of chambers where Ben Schroeder a young and talented lawyer is also based finds himself involved in an affair with a high-profile client.
If word were to get out then his reputation would be in tatters and it would ruin not only his career but that of his chambers and all those based in it as well. But could the Head of Chambers have anything up his shelve that might help resolve the issue and also allow him to gain one over on his rival Miles Overton QC and where does Ben Schroeder come in all this?
A Higher Duty is a story about a set of barristers and their chambers set in the 1960s at a time when being in a set of chambers was like being a member of a very expensive club. It deals with various ethical issues including misconduct, scandal, bigotry, and duplicity along with blackmail and murder. One has to remember however that this is set in a period where on the one hand some of the things that take place were taken for granted at the time whilst some others would be considered inappropriate.
Would what happened in A Higher Duty bring down a set of chambers today? I very much doubt it. It is more likely to be seen as a personal matter and therefore Gaskell would have found himself hauled up in front of the Bar Disciplinary Panel and possibly in front of the other senior members of his chambers than bring the chambers into disrepute.
Of course there is going to be comparisons to Rumpole but they are totally different. In A Higher Duty you have a rather complex plot, which Peter Murphy manages to sustain with a finesse that makes you appreciate the way in which the novel has been written. There is a good sense of place and also the characterisation of the various individuals works very well indeed. It would be good to see more of Ben Schroeder.
Peter Murphy certainly knows his stuff but it is as could be expected from someone who has spent a majority of his time as a barrister and has worked not only in the UK but also the US and the Hague and is currently a judge.A Higher Duty is a good place to start if you want to gain a good insight into how one goes from being a student to a senior barrister and if you are lucky a QC back in the 60s. That aside, it is a fascinating read about the law, barristers, and its vagaries.