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A RUMPOLE CHRISTMAS
by John Mortimer
Viking, October 2009
176 pages
$21.95
ISBN: 0670021350


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A compilation of five of John Mortimer's later stories about Rumpole, focused on the Christmas holiday season. The price is a bit hefty for its size and content, but the stories gently bring you into the world of Horace Rumpole, barrister and puzzle solver par excellence, and it's rather a nice trip. This pretty little book would make a lovely stocking stuffer or a nice little gift for someone of your acquaintance who enjoys classic mysteries (witty Brit division) - they have a droll and rather sly slant, and often a nicely quirky twist at the end.

There is one short-short story, two medium length, one long-ish, and a novella, arranged, it appears, by length, with the shortest first, the novella last, and some pen and ink drawings. I had read the first three and had begun to despair about the remainder, since, although the plots were decent and the stories very well-written, mildly entertaining in a sweet sort of way, I wasn't all that thrilled by them - they definitely didn't seem to be up to Mortimer's usual sparkling quality. But then I read the longish story Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces, which at first promised to be a rather syrup-y story about old felons living new lives and being recognized in their new guises by Rumpole. It's actually two connected stories but flows beautifully - and it has a zinger of a nifty edge to it that made me smile. A nice little pressie indeed! And then I found that while the novella was a bit coy and cute at times, the pacing and characterization were extremely good. Very enjoyable, overall.

The stories were all previously published in magazines:

Rumpole and Father Christmas, 2005: a holiday party at the office turns into a heist, almost.

Rumpole's Slimmed-Down Christmas, 2006: nicely tart story about a health spa visit that doesn't go at all well.

Rumpole and the Boy, 2007: a blackmail case at Christmas - extremely sentimental but does have a nice twist at the end.

Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces, 2001: note to self, never trust a parson...

Rumpole and the Christmas Break, 2004: a terrorist has murdered a blasphemer, or has he?

Why not treat yourself to something old-fashioned and tasty, with just a hint of spice? A glass of eggnog, a roaring fire, and a quiet hour or two to roam through these little charmers. What may have seemed a bit too sentimental for my taste might be just right for you, and, anyway, isn't this the season for sentiment? Happy Holidays!

Reviewed by Abbey Hamilton, December 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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