The second collection of cases from Bermondsey Crown Court, narrated by Charlie Walden, contains five stories of judicial experiences. Charlie is the Resident Judge of the court, the most senior judge with the assistance of Marjorie, “Legless” and Hubert. There are also the court staff who actually keep the court running, Elsie and Jeanie’s sustaining food and drink, and George’s carefully edited newspaper offerings. The most significant assistance is from clergy advisor, music loving and lateral thinker the Reverend Mrs Walden, the human resource behind the knotty problems Charlie has to face in the court. Raging from the ambitious and reputation conscious Lester Fogle to an international triumph, Charlie’s concerns are not only with the actual cases in the court, but also preserving the status quo against the cost obsessed Grey Smoothies, or the civil servants who haunt the courts with their own agendas. Truly all human life is here, love, hate, failure and success, with Charlie trying to keep the wheels running. Although the second book in the series, it stands alone as the cases are self contained and the main participants are always introduced. Funny, intelligent and sometimes moving, the characters who emerge from these tales are brilliantly described and come to life in this most entertaining book.
The first of the situations and cases in this book is the case of a representative of what Charlie refers to as one of London’s Disorganised Crime Families. Lester Fogle’s insistence on attempting to defend himself in person is slowing down the trial, especially as he takes an interest in the technical details from Archbold, the subject of much discussion among his family. The progress of this case in its humourous way is somewhat sidelined by one of the other judge’s preoccupation with a counsel’s appearance. Smoothing down ruffled egos is not made easier for Charlie as the press take an interest, and things get more challenging. Reverend Walden offers to help with a musical problem which has roots in the area from another era in the second case. The “Owl and the Pussycat” relates to dodgy shipping, and an historical artifact that attracts much interest. The dubious actions of a clergyman leads to some merriment in court among some sobering decisions, especially for bewildered fellow clergy, but a hint of danger makes everyone aware of their situation. The final case of careers and marriages under threat is heard against a threat to the very court itself, which provokes an unusual reaction.
The underlying humour of this book keeps the tone light, even though the subject matter can sometimes be very serious. Peter Murphy’s own knowledge of and background in the legal system means that every fact is correct, the cases have the ring of truth, and the whole organisation is written with real experience. The surprises that emerge in each story as people are involved are realistic, and written in such a way as to involve and convince the reader. I really enjoy these tales from Bermondsey Crown Court, and look forward to future encounters with Judge Walden.