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Court drama set in London (two for the price of one…)

21st March 2017

Summary Justice by John Fairfax – court drama set in London.

Summary Justice is set largely in the Old Bailey criminal court in London. For me (having read so many US based thrillers of late) it was good to return home to good old English justice…

Court drama set in London

William Benson is a barrister, but he is not your conventional barrister. He spent 16 years in gaol (not jail!) for a murder he may – or may not – have committed. Anyway, he always protested his innocence – not least to Tess de Vere who was a young intern working with his defence lawyers at the time. She believed him. Fast forward to when William is released, having spent his 16 confined years studying law. He has made it to be a barrister – though there is a petition afoot saying that no one who has been convicted as he was should be allowed to practice. Tess is now a successful lawyer in her own right… They connect again and Tess agrees to work with William (and his clerk, Archie, another ex-con) for the defence in a murder trial.

SJblogtour2Sarah Collingwood, a single mum of a disabled child, is accused of killing her employer. It looks like an open and shut case – but William and Tess believe in her innocence. They research diligently (much more so than the original police investigation) and prepare their defence. The case goes to court… There is much calling of witnesses and cross examination. William is up against Rachel Glencoyne, a very high profile and successful barrister. The court scenes are well and comprehensively described (John Fairfax himself used to be a barrister…). There is many a twist and turn as the trial moves to its conclusion. Tess notes the many similarities to the case 16 years’ ago in which William was found guilty. William struggles outside court, but is majestic within it.

William and Tess fancy each other, but their relationship is of course not straightforward. Tess is presented with evidence that makes her doubt William’s innocence of the 16 year old murder, and this throws her whole life into turmoil. William is now clearly a ‘good’ man, but is he hiding his past? We (the readers) think we know the answer – but can we be sure?

The characters in Summary Justice are well and sympathetically drawn. They are believable. From Sarah struggling with her life as the single mother of a disabled child – and scared witless at the prospect of time in prison, to the split in William’s personality in and outside the court room, to Sarah’s failed actor father. It is well written and draws you in.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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