Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rumpole Reviewed

Oliver Twist's mentor once gave him this well-founded piece of advice, "...There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.” How true.

And alas, even the discriminate book lover who tries to select only the best reading finds himself burdened by a clunker now and then. That's one of the reasons The Book Den exists: to try and help our visitors find the good ones and avoid the bad.

In the latter case, let me suggest that my first excursion into John Mortimer's Rumpole series will be my last. The feisty, fat curmudgeon I had caught a couple of times in the British television series based on Mortimer's stories seemed interesting so I had long included them in my "gotta' read sometime" list. I can now cross that particular entry off and get to other things.

Why? The stories in the collection entitled, Rumpole and the Angel of Death, have their fair share of witticisms and wry observations about the declining power of the English court system to establish justice. Good enough. But the stories seemed too simple in plot and, more importantly, were much too amoral in tone.

For instance, Rumpole as a defense attorney has one goal -- keeping his client from being convicted. Whether or not justice is served by the truly guilty party paying for his crimes is not his concern. Even in my "entertainment" reading, I want the good guy to win and the bad guy to lose; at least, I desire that the reader clearly knows who the good guys and bad guys are.

Furthermore, in the title story of this collection, Mortimer uses the Rumpole story as a vehicle to not only present a pro-life nurse in a decidely negative light but even to make a soft argument for euthanasia. That was enough for me. There are too many other well-written, interesting, and morally-sound stories yet to be read for me to bother any more with Mr. Rumpole.

But, as Mr. Brownlow might comment, "The cover was pleasant."