This is the first of John Mortimer's books about the barrister Horace Rumpole, defender of the downtrodden, an expert in bloodstains and typewriters, the successful advocate in the defence of the Penge Bungalow Murders (alone and without a leader), and regular quoter of the Oxford Book of English Verse (the Arthur Quiller-Couch version).
Rumpole is to the world of criminal law what James Bond is to international espionage. A leading man who is in many ways as tragic as he is heroic, and who passionately believes in upholding his dearest values, primarily the presumption of innocence and the sport of verbal jousting with judges and the prosecution.
In this book's six stories (subsequently serialised for television as season 1 of "Rumpole of the Bailey"), we follow selected trials from Rumpole's career, aided and abetted by a supporting cast of very British oddballs. These range from his formidable wife Hilda (aka She Who Must Be Obeyed) to the utterly ineffectual Guthrie Featherstone QC, his head of Chambers, taking in beautifully drawn caricatures of judges, lawyers, clients and criminals based on people from Mortimer's real-life courtroom experiences.
You don't need to be an expert in law - or even have much of an interest in the British justice system - to appreciate this book. More than anything, these are quirky, human tales of a man who consistently champions the cause of the (allegedly) criminal underdog, being equal parts barrister-at-law, detective and courtroom entertainer, who encounters a never-ending variety of odd people and situations in the course of plying his trade.
Incidentally, this book is also available as part of "The First Rumpole Omnibus". Either way, it is a thoroughly good read. Simply retire to a quiet corner with a bottle of finest Chateau Fleet Street and enjoy the trials and tribulations of this most British of heroes.