Welcome to my stop on the Beyond Reasonable Doubt blog tour! This fast-paced thriller has hands-down taught me more about the British legal system than all the courtroom dramas I’ve ever watched put together. And there’s good reason for that; the author (co-author, Scott Kershaw also has a writing credit) Gary Bell QC, is a real-life barrister. I have to admit, I initially did have to Google a few of the terms (‘You hear he’s applied for silk?’) to make sense of things, but I don’t mind that, learning as you read is always a bonus. To say Gary Bell took inspiration from his own life for that of his lead character, Elliot Rook QC, would be more than a little accurate. Example: facts that apply to both Gary and Elliot:
- Born into a coal mining family
- Arrested for fraud at 18 years old
- Spent two years travelling around Europe
- Spent time living on the streets
- Pretended to go to Eton College
That’s a pretty good basis for any character’s back-story and even more intriguing knowing it’s from a real-life source! As we all know, every good lead detective-style character needs a plucky side-kick, step forward 24-year old trainee-barrister Zara Barnes. She’s a pupil of the firm and Rook takes her under his wing. The repertoire between the two is great to read.
Now, onto the story. When a case is put forward where Rook knows the defendant, William Barber, things become a little complicated. Barber is accused of murder and Rook agrees to defend him. Not necessarily due to his belief Barber is innocent, more due to a spot of emotional blackmail. Barber knows things from Rook’s past and as we’ve seen, Rook hasn’t always been honest about his past . Barber is not a nice guy; he’s a racist, nasty piece of work – but did he actually murder the girl? That’s what Rook and Zara must discover if they are to defend him properly in court and something that Zara has to come to terms with if she’s going to make it as a barrister. The morality issue is an intriguing thread in the story, as Rook tells Zara, ‘it’s imperative that we never get bogged down on whether out client is good or bad by conventional standards.’
This is the first book in a series and it’s a super-strong, confident way to both introduce an intriguing new legal (detective-style) character and make you want to read the next book. Due to its interesting insight into the legal world (‘The jury verdict always includes the word guilty; it’s the not, three letters, that changes so much.’), informative facts that popped up throughout (‘The River Fleet still runs beneath the Old Bailey.’) and page-turning plot, I’ll definitely be seeing what case Elliot Rook QC is getting his teeth into in the next instalment.
/ Published by Raven Books June 2019
/ 352 pages
/ Rating: 4/5
About the Author:
Born into a coal mining family, Gary Bell QC left school without any qualifications and was an apprentice mechanic, fork lift truck driver, production line worker, builder, fireman and door-to-door salesman, as well as a notorious football hooligan, before being arrested for fraud aged 18. After a brief stint in prison he set off to seek fame and fortune abroad and, after two years drifting around Europe ended up penniless and homeless. He next enrolled in a FE College to study his O and A levels, and then went on to study law as a mature student at Bristol University where he ‘became’ an Old Etonian. After graduating he spent a year as a litigation lawyer in Beverly Hills before coming back to England to become a barrister. He has spent over thirty years at the Bar, specialising in defending in major fraud and murder trials, becoming a QC in 2012. Always on the look out for challenges and opportunities he has also been an award winning stand-up comedian; an after-dinner speaker (when at University he won several national debating competitions and was runner up in the World’s Humorous Debating Competition at Princeton); he has learned to fly a plane, hosted his own TV show (the Legalizer) on BBC1; writes regularly for national newspapers; has a column in The Spectator and wrote his best-selling autobiography, Animal QC.
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