Judge Walden – Call the Next Case by Peter Murphy
Fascinating fiction based on the strange but true world of the legal system has often been popular; but The Judge Walden stories have the advantage of being quietly brilliant. Having completed my first degree in law at Cambridge University, I think I have some insight into how difficult it can be to write in a human and engaging way about the law, especially without getting bogged down in obscure facts and arguments. The underlying story of this book, of a resident judge in Bermondsey, London who is happily married to a Vicar, is a solid background for tales of people who get themselves entangled in the law, as well as the stories of how he runs the local court establishment. Although this is the third book in the series, it is a complete standalone book which may well just persuade the reader to get hold of the other two books. It is not only the law that is the subject here; the characters are so realistic that I was convinced that they were real in all their exasperating, surprising and intriguing actions. The dialogue is funny, crisp and varied, with the lawyers observing the rules with a running commentary from Charlie, and his judicial colleagues showing their real characters over disappointing lunches and battles with technology. The humour is gentle and always to the purpose, but there are also sad human stories sensitively handled. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this fascinating book.
This book begins with a case which deals with an elderly lady who has trusted a friend with money over several years. While not the most cheerful of stories, it does reveal much about the people involved in some skilful descriptions. A disturbing incident in a restaurant is full of information about salad making and jealousy, while another gives a serious view of astrology. My favourite was a rare excursion into the countryside for Walden, where the rules are reconsidered and expectations overturned.While each case is carefully looked at, in all its complexity and suspense, all are resolved but never neatly or in a predictable way. The running characters at home or at work ensure that Walden always has much to consider and attempt to reconcile to the various expectations of his life.
It is difficult to convey adequately how immensely readable and enjoyable I found this book. I suggest it would appeal to those with little or no legal knowledge, as well as those with an interest in crime generally. Its humour, to be found in such catchphrases as lunch being “an oasis of calm in a desert of chaos”, often muttered ironically, is subtle but effective. The plotting of each story is impeccable, with many details and thoughtful asides. “Judge Walden” is a cunning but realistic judge, able to predict and understand many of the statements and questions raised in court, while showing the ability to react well to the challenges of effectively running a complex establishment, while giving due credit to the members of staff around him. There is undoubtedly a market for fictionalised actions of careers in teaching, medicine and other professions, and this look at the legal system in the twenty first century is undoubtedly educational as well as extremely entertaining.