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A Rumpole Christmas: Stories    by John Mortimer order for
Rumpole Christmas
by John Mortimer
Order:  USA  Can
Viking, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

There is a famous song that begins with these lyrics: 'It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.' Well, that is not exactly true - at least not yet, in spite of what the song says - but, if you want to get into the Christmas spirit well in advance of the holidays, this newly published collection of John Mortimer's stories should nicely fill the bill.

The singular barrister Horace Rumpole, accompanied often by his wife Hilda (otherwise known as She Who Must Be Obeyed), is engaged in suffering through the Christmas holiday season in five splendid adventures.

First, a shady character in a rented Father Christmas costume ironically learns about the true meaning of the holiday at the chambers' party. Second, Hilda drags her husband along on a dreaded Christmas vacation at an upscale health spa where Rumpole's misery and a guest's murder serve to nearly ruin the holidays. Third, his client's twelve year old son leads Rumpole to a surprising discovery about the powers of testimony and evidence in a provocative blackmail case. Fourth, the irascible Rumpole turns the tables on a former client who makes an unexpected and costly appearance at a holiday party. Fifth, irrational fears of terrorism at Rumpole's chambers make almost everyone nervous, and the murder trial for 'one of the most hated men in England' must remain unresolved until after the Christmas recess.

So, with Horace and Hilda exchanging their obligatory gifts each year with perfunctory holiday enthusiasm (he gives her fragrance and she gives him a tie), they are nevertheless somehow enjoying five Christmas seasons together in Mortimer's superb stories. Although the author (novelist, playwright, and barrister) died in January 2009, his greatest fictional creation remains forever ready to entertain and delight readers. In this wonderful little collection of lively tales - just in time for Christmas gift-giving - the great barrister lives on. Enjoy!

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