Sunday Salon: British lawyer books

Sunday Salon David Johnson asked this question the other day on the rec.arts mystery group: There are great heaping huge mounds of American lawyer books (which comprise the most common subgenre of mystery these days, I think). Are there any British lawyer books (not counting Witness for the Prosecution)?


Over the next few days, answers from the group included:


The Rumpole series by John Mortimer (not sure these charming tales count as “mystery fiction” though — they started out as a TV series, so long ago that I remember watching it).

Sarah Cauldwell’s Hilary Tamar series (gender of protagonist never revealed).


The Helen West and Sarah Fortune series by Frances Fyfield (which I recommend, the Helen Wests slightly more than the Sarah Fortunes, but only marginally. The two characters feature in each others’ series).


Natasha Cooper’s Trish Maguire books (I’ve read one, which I liked a lot).


Martin Edwards’s Harry Devlin novels. The older titles are not currently in print, but he’s just written a new book in the series after taking a break from it, Waterloo Sunset, which is very good indeed.


The remaining recommendations are from earlier times.


The Martin Hewitt short stories  by Arthur Morrison, apparently published in the Strand magazine “as a sort of contrast to Sherlock Holmes”, writes Dave from Toronto, “(believe it or not there were people in Victorian times who did not like the eccentricities of Holmes).  Hewitt was a lawyer with a keen analytical mind like Holmes but there the resemblance ended – Hewitt was short and stocky, very jovial and always co-operated with the police”. Dave points to a link at Project Gutenberg where the stories can be read free online.


Edmund Crispin wrote some delightful books featuring Oxford don Gervase Fen, but I don’t recall them as being mainly “legal”.


Cyril Hare certainly wrote legal mysteries in the 1940s and 50s.


Michael Gilbert wrote many crime and mystery books in a range of genres, some of which I’ve read many years ago, including Smallbone Deceased, nominated here.


Sara Woods wrote 53 books featuring Antony Maitland, barrister. The author’s real name was Lana Hutton Bowen-Judd, and she also wrote under other pseudonyms.

5 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: British lawyer books

  1. Two that spring to mind are Rankin Davis and Jonathan Davies (touted at Britain’s answer to John Grisham). Both have stopped writing these past few years though. Also Joyce Holms (Scottish) is still writing a series set in Edinburgh.

  2. Edmund Crispin certainly doesn’t belong in this category. Who I am reminded of in reading this is Anthony Gilbert (Lucy Malleson), who wrote a series of novels featuring the somewhat seedy solicitor named Arthur Crook. Very entertaining stuff, as I recall.

  3. That’s great, Philip, thanks. I was hoping you would swoop in with a suggestion I hadn’t heard of. And thanks for confirming my suspicion about Crispin: my memory is pretty poor but I think I would have remembered if the books had been law-based.
    And thanks, Karen, as ever for your expertise. Must check out Joyce Holms.
    It does seem, from the list, that not many Brits are currently writing legal crime/mystery fiction, apart from Natasha Cooper, Frances Fyfield and Martin Edwards. And of these. Trish Maguire and Harry Devlin are solicitors, and Helen West works for the crime prosecution service. I forget exactly what Sarah Fortune’s job is, but I don’t think she’s a barrister.
    Maybe there is an opening here for a budding author? 😉

  4. I guess I’m pretty ignorant. I thought John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey series were it, or like you mentioned Agatha Christie books. You learn something new every day. 🙂

  5. Karen M has mentioned Joyce Holms and if I could just wave the flag for the Fizz and Buchanan series as well – they rely very much on character and they are very entertaining.

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