The passing of an esteemed author is always sad but I felt a special loss earlier this year upon hearing of the death of Sir John Mortimer. His Rumpole stories have brought me so much pleasure, and when I learned he was gone I wished I'd just sat down and written a good old-fashioned fan letter to let him know what enjoyment his work had brought. This is surely belated but nonetheless sincere when I say that, for me, Mortimer's Rumpole is a legendary English detective, deserving a place by Sherlock Holmes and Jeeves.
What a surprise to find A RUMPOLE CHRISTMAS, a collection of five Rumpole holiday stories now published in book form. We find the ever amusing, always insightful Horace Rumpole coming across all manner of skullduggery to relieve him of the usual yuletide tedium when he and his wife, Hilda, aka "She who must be obeyed" enjoy turkey, plum pudding and "a bottle or two of Pomeroy's Chateau Thames Embankment" following the exchange of a tie for him and a "ritual bottle of lavender water" for her.
For starters there's a rather shifty eyed although plump Santa at Equity Court's Christmas party. This is followed by "Rumpole's Slimmed Down Christmas," a story in which Hilda presents him with a surprise gift - reservations for a stay at Minchingham Hall, a health farm where the food leaves much to be desired. For supper the main and only course "was a small portion of steamed spinach and a little diced carrot, enough, perhaps, to satisfy a small rodent but quite inadequate for a human." On the bright side, there was what appeared to be a murder in a steam room.
And so it goes. As Hilda says crime does seem to follow Rumpole as does thoroughly enjoyable reading for us.
- Gail Cooke