Review - MURDER IN COURT THREE, Ian Simpson
Even if you didn't know that author Ian Simpson regards John Mortimer as one of his inspirations, there's something slightly similar in their writing styles, although there's no Rumpole character in MURDER IN COURT THREE.
Set in the precincts of courts, and the legal fraternity, the victim here is a Barrister, and the investigation is straight police procedural, albeit with a hefty portion of fraud case in court antics on the side. It's actually a nice balance, as is the idea that the police team is made up of DI Flick Fortune, pregnant and about to have her baby at any moment and DS Bagawath Chandavarkar from the Major Crime / Fraud squad seconded into this investigation because the victim, Farquhar Knox QC is one of the legal team involved in a major fraud case.
It's a complicated investigation because, for a start, just about every possible suspect - from the fraud trial, the marital infidelities, past cases as well as a general dislike of up jumped lawyers seems to have been on-site the night that Knox died. Many of these characters have plenty of experience of the law - from both sides - as well, and they are past masters at the art of vague memories and obfuscating answering. Even allowing for the slightly odd method of his death there's no shortage of possible motives as well, down to the senior police officer who ends up suspended whilst the team investigate his wife's relationship with the victim.
Alongside the complications of the case there are the irritations of the media shoving it's nose in where it's not wanted, and the opinions of Fortune's old boss who does a particularly nice line in antiquated, horrible old dinosaur if there ever was one.
The subject matter in MURDER IN COURT THREE is handled well and there's no indication that it's a spoof, but the author's hand is light and very engaging. His characters all have lives, thoughts and feelings, and the way that they are affected by each other, and the pressure of an investigation reads with authenticity. There is something here though, some sort of gentle hat-tip to Rumpole perhaps, that does make this feel slightly on the lighter side. Maybe it is the home, love and real lives interwoven with the day to day grind. Perhaps it is the setting of the legal world, and the idea that an Advocates and Archery night would happen in the first place that makes it all seem slightly "not of this world". It's definitely not crime fiction on the gritty side, but it is fabulously readable and enjoyable enough to quickly place the previous two books (MURDER ON PAGE ONE and MURDER ON THE SECOND TEE) instantly on the purchased list.
Farquhar Knox QC heard a creak to his right and swung round, prepared to bully an intruder into going away. But the blustering tirade died on his lips as the sharp point of an arrow pierced his dinner shirt, entered his torso below the ribs and was pushed up until it penetrated his heart. A few gurgles were the last sounds Farquhar Knox made. His own day of judgement had arrived.
When a leading QC is found dead after a function at the law courts in Edinburgh, rumour has it that he had been having an affair with the wife of a senior police officer. Detective Inspector Flick Fortune and Detective Sergeant Bagawath Chandavarkar (Baggo) encounter hazy memories, awkward lawyers and a fervent religious group. Their efforts are derided in the press by ex-Inspector No. In the background, a multi-million pound fraud trial reaches its conclusion as unorthodox methods are needed to reach the truth...