Written by John Mortimer, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders is a surprisingly genuine novel set in the 1950s…despite the fact that it was only written ten years ago.

Told from the perspective of Horace Rumpole, Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (RPBM) follow the legal case after two war heroes are found dead in their homes. The only suspect – Simon Jerold, the son of one of the victims – a man who was last seen waving a gun and threatening to kill his father if he taunted him again. Awks.

Of course, particularly with legal thrillers, nothing is ever as it seems, so Rumpole, ‘alone and without a leader’, decides to take the case and find a way to prove Simon innocent.

As far as ‘legal thrillers’ go RPBM isn’t particularly ‘legally’ or ‘thriller-y’ – rather, its a very British tongue-in-cheek at the absurdities of law and of English characters in general. Rather than provide twists and turns, or plot changes that cause the audienceĀ to gasp in amazement, a la The Sixth Sense (Bruce Willis is DEAD?! I’m sure you appreciate the 90s flashback), but it does provide notable witty examples of people in the legal field. Whether its Rumpole’s superior, who spends more time playing golf than in the office (still scarily true of some professions today), or the belief that if its too tough well, then, OBVIOUSLY he must be guilty.

Plus, aside from anything else, I have to give Mortimer credit for coming up with the term ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ a bittersweet term for a wife comparable to Basil Fawlty’s loving term ‘the dragon’ for his wife. Hmmfff. While it is just one example of the wit that surfaces throughout RPBM, a writer who successfully pulls of a character that refers to himself in the third person (although, if I were called Rumpole I’d refer to myself in the third person too), is one that understands what humour works best on the written page.

Have you read Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders or any other novels starring Horace Rumpole? Are you a fan of John Mortimer? Let me know!

rumpole and the penge bungalow murders by john mortimer

Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders – (image taken from http://www.imagesbn.com)