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Tragedy at Law [Paperback]

Cyril Hare
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

5 Mar 2009
Tragedy at Law follows a rather self-important High Court judge, Mr Justice Barber, as he moves from town to town presiding over cases in the Southern England circuit. When an anonymous letter arrives for Barber, warning of imminent revenge, he dismisses it as the work of a harmless lunatic. But then a second letter appears, followed by a poisoned box of the judge's favourite chocolates, and he begins to fear for his life. Enter barrister and amateur detective Francis Pettigrew, a man who was once in love with Barber's wife and has never quite succeeded in his profession - can he find out who is threatening Barber before it is too late?

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (5 Mar 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571244874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571244874
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 146,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

Another reissue of a classic mystery from one of the best-loved and most influential English Golden Age crime writers.

From the Publisher

A classic of legal detective fiction
Cyril Hare, the pseudonym of Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark, was born in Surrey in 1900 and practised law both in civil and criminal courts after being called to the Bar in 1924.

His first crime novel, Tenant for Death, was published in 1937 and introduced his first series character, Scotland Yard detective Inspector Mallett. But it is his fourth novel, Tragedy at Law (1942), which is widely regarded as his masterpiece, drawing as it did upon Hare’s own legal experience as a judge’s marshal on the circuit. The novel also marked the debut of his other popular series character, the lawyer Francis Pettigrew.

Hare wrote nine novels in total, as well as a number of short stories, and in recent years there has been much critical re-evaluation of his work. As well as his delightful witty touch and sense of character, Hare’s work is praised for its authentic legal detail. Julian Symons, for example, described Tragedy at Law as ‘Outstanding among portraits of legal life in crime fiction,’ and Henry Cecil (also a judge who wrote bestselling crime fiction) said that Tragedy at Law ‘was acknowledged by many lawyers to be "the classic detective story with a legal background".’

In addition to his writing, Cyril Hare continued his career in law and from 1950 until his death in 1958 he worked as a county court judge in Surrey.

THE PAN CLASSIC CRIME SERIES The idea for the Pan Classic Crime series was sparked by two separate incidents - my struggle to find a new copy of MALICE AFORETHOUGHT by Francis Iles (one of my favourite crime novels), and a newspaper article about Eric Ambler which claimed that none of his novels was available in the UK. I then began six months of research to discover which other classics had shockingly been allowed to go out of print (concentrating particularly on novels published 1930-1960). And so the Pan Classic Crime series was born, launching in April 1999 with six titles - including two by Eric Ambler and, of course, MALICE AFORETHOUGHT.

Before my research began I must admit my knowledge of pre-1970s crime fiction was restricted to the giants - Doyle, Christie, Highsmith, Chandler. And I must admit, too, that I was hesitant about how well these 'lost treasures' would stand up to modern crime fiction. How wrong I was - the novels I read and am now publishing were remarkably sophisticated, skilful, innovative, insightful, and full of character and wit. I felt suitably ashamed for having doubted them!

By July this year we will have published 18 titles in the series. One of our aims has been introduce new readers to these authors and, with this in mind, each edition is introduced by a well-known crime writer of today. For example, Colin Dexter, P.D. James, Robert Goddard and Robert Harris have all contributed to the series. What pleased me the most was the phrase that popped up again and again in the letters that accompanied their introductions: 'I'd forgotten just how good they were!'

Also in the series

1) The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Harris

2) Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles With an introduction by Colin Dexter

3) The Beast Must Die by Nicholas Blake With an introduction by P.D. James

4) Journey Into Fear by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Harris

5) Green for Danger by Christianna Brand With an introduction by Lindsey Davis

6) Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin With an introduction by Jonathan Gash

7) Before the Fact by Francis Iles With an introduction by Colin Dexter

8) Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Harris

9) Tragedy at Law by Cyril Hare With an introduction by Frances Fyfield

10) Last Seen Wearing . . . by Hillary Waugh With an introduction by Reginald Hill

11) Cause for Alarm by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Goddard

12) A Tangled Web by Nicholas Blake With an introduction by P.D. James

13) Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin With an introduction by Jonathan Gash

14) Judgment on Deltchev by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Goddard

15) My Name is Michael Sibley by John Bingham With an introduction by John le Carre

16) Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler With an introduction by Robert Goddard

17) Death of a Doll by Hilda Lawrence (pub July 2001) With an introduction by Minette Walters

18) Five Roundabouts to Heaven by John Bingham (pub July 2001) With an introduction by John le Carre --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, classic English detection. 17 Nov 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This is a beautifully written, dryly humourous story with an ingenious plot and believable characters in the best classic English detective tradition. The unusual setting of a judge's circuit as he goes round the country trying cases, followed by the shrewd but unambitious Pettigrew, holds the reader's attention to the end.The clues are well laid and the ending is unusually satisfying. The characters are just the right amount larger than life and much funnier. A literate journey through inter-war England.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Legal Page-Turner 29 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback
Much of the considerable charm of this ingenious crime novel lies in its picturesque period setting, during the phoney war of 1940. The story unfolds as Mr Justice Barber makes his stately progress around the Southern Circuit, calling at one county town after another, to dispense justice in the King's name. This is a world in which an English town, whose court-house has been closed for perhaps five months since the last assize, has only five or six serious cases to be heard, a world where trials are conducted in quaint old court-rooms, where a case of murder can be dealt with in less than two days (the jury considering its verdict for all of half an hour) and where the judge must be treated, quite literally, as though he were the monarch he represents.

Most classic English crime novels are set in a closed community: country house, school, hospital or whatever. But by setting his story on the legal circuit, Hare is able to vary the setting, as the judge and his legal entourage move from Assize Town to Assize Town, each of which has its own special character. But the community - the judge, his wife, his Marshal, his clerk, and a retinue of servants - is still a closed one in which each figure has a significant part to play in the complex and intriguing tale.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic British whodunnit 25 Mar 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Cyril Hare is the pen-name of Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark (1900-58), a Rugby and Oxford educated Inner Temple barrister who was called to the bar in 1924 and whose career as both a judge and an excellent fiction writer was cut short by his untimely death. "Tragedy at Law" was published in 1942 and is set in the autumn of 1939 and the spring of 1940 in the fictitious Southern Circuit Assizes. British justice evolved periodically in the 20th Century and this book captures the way it was after the abolition of Grand Juries and before the Quarter Sessions became the full-time Crown Courts.

The traveling circus of the Assizes, moving from one county town to another, at which the judge hears both criminal and civil matters that await him is the back story to this mystery in which the judge seems to be the target of at least one person of ill-will, whilst anticipating being the defendant in litigation that will terminate his career. The characters that accompany him - his young wife, his martial, his clerk and at least one barrister are all suspects as the story progresses through 24 neatly defined chapters, each of which develops the mystery as well as taking us around the circuit of Assize hearings and then back to London and the Central Criminal Court, better known by the name of the street it stands in - Old Bailey.

All the clues are put in place, although the suspense is maintained literally to the last page (but don't bother reading that first, it won't help you) of this novel. The way the story is crafted is actually an excellent study as to how to write fiction; so good, in fact, that I wonder why it didn't make school reading lists when I was a lad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the Publisher & Author 18 May 2008
Format:Paperback
From the Publisher
A classic of legal detective fiction
Cyril Hare, the pseudonym of Alfred Alexander Gordon Clark, was born in Surrey in 1900 and practised law both in civil and criminal courts after being called to the Bar in 1924.

His first crime novel, Tenant for Death, was published in 1937 and introduced his first series character, Scotland Yard detective Inspector Mallett. But it is his fourth novel, Tragedy at Law (1942), which is widely regarded as his masterpiece, drawing as it did upon Hare's own legal experience as a judge's marshal on the circuit. The novel also marked the debut of his other popular series character, the lawyer Francis Pettigrew.

From the Author:
What goes on behind the stately facade of a court of law? My father, "Cyril Hare" knew - he'd accompanied a high court judge twice as his "Marshal" - PA we'd say today; later he became a judge himself. Also, the atmosphere of England in early war-time is brilliantly portrayed - the black-out, the rationing, the cut-down ceremony, all play their part in the story of the increasing woes which afflict Mr Justice Barber. Hailed when first published as "A Detective Masterpiece - sure of appreciative readers for years to come" (New Statesman) and "almost everything a good detective story should be" (Spectator), it was recently described as "still regarded as a minor classic" by Marcel Berlins in the Guardian. I've read it again and again, as have hundreds of thousands of readers all round the world and in various languages - and I promise you won't read many better crime stories this millennium!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars As god as writing gets
Tragedy at law, and indeed all Cyril Hare's detective novels, are as good as detective fiction gets from every point of view. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Anton Wills-Eve
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, witty, intriguing
I came across this book, and indeed this author, quite by chance, and thought it looked like a good read. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Keen Reader
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written. Took a few chapters to get into, but worth it.
Starts out rather stuffily, wallowing in ceremonial tradition. But don't give up Hare develops the plot and characters wonderfully subtly. Kept me guessing to the very end.
Published 21 months ago by T. Lloyd
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragety at Law
A delightful read, and quietly funny, set in the period before the second world war,it seems to be a blend of fiction and and fact on how the courts operated at the time (perhpas... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read
I bought this following seeing it featured on "My Life in Books" & enjoyed reading it. It was well crafted & was characterised by understated wry humour. Read more
Published on 5 Aug 2012 by Sue B.
3.0 out of 5 stars Unfulfilled expectations
This was a great disappointment to me. Having seen it referred to as a "classic detective story" and an "ingenious murder story" I was keen to discover a crime writer previously... Read more
Published on 11 Jun 2012 by hiljean
4.0 out of 5 stars Sticking to what you know best
The best of a little series featuring Inspector Mallett and Barrister Francis Pettigrew. Set in the Phoney War we have reference to black-out curtains, babies' respirators and... Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2011 by Officer Dibble
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic literary crime novel
HRF Keating selected this book as one one of the 100 best crime novels in his book on the subject over 20 years ago. Read more
Published on 3 July 2010 by notjohn1
5.0 out of 5 stars an old fashioned treat
"Tragedy at Law" is a delight: literate, funny and very well-informed. P.D.James's recommendation of Cyril Hare must have earned her the gratitude of thousands of detective story... Read more
Published on 20 Oct 2009 by piscator
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed with Englishness!!!
Tragedy at Law was originally published in 1942 and P.D. James states that it is:

"...regarded by many lawyers as the best English detective story set in the legal... Read more
Published on 15 July 2009 by Jackie
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