29.7.15

Book recommendation: The Silk Brief (The Silk Tales Book 1) by John Burton

David Brant QC is a newly appointed Queen’s Counsel, a “Silk”, a Criminal Barrister struggling against ever-dwindling legal aid funds and a lack of work. His Chambers is also suffering internal and external pressures and his Senior Clerk seems to only serve a select few. Life at the Bar is more challenging than ever before. His personal life is not much better. Having faced an acrimonious divorce after an inadvisable liaison with a female Solicitor, his life has become a mixture of enforced rest and ever increasing consumption of Claret and Rioja Reserva. However, after a night out with his Senior Clerk, he is instructed to defend in a Murder trial, leading one of the instructing solicitor’s firm’s In-House Barristers. The client is a Mr Damien Clarke, a cocaine addict charged with killing a known associate, Usman Hussain, after a night of smoking crack together in Hussain’s flat. The evidence against Damien appears almost overwhelming and as the case progresses towards trial it is strengthened by further forensic scientific evidence. David Brant QC must use all his forensic skill to combat the array of damning evidence against Damien and to pit his wits against a highly competent Prosecutor and a Judge who has a personal dislike for him. The Silk Brief takes us from before David Brant QC is instructed, through his early preparation of the case and conferences with the client in the High Security Belmarsh prison, through to the trial and verdict. It provides the day by day record of a murder trial including the examination and cross-examination of lay and expert witnesses, Counsel’s speeches, the Judges summing up and finally the jury’s deliberations and verdict. Although a work of fiction, the author draws extensively on his knowledge of the Criminal Bar of England and Wales, having practiced as a Criminal Barrister for over thirty years, latterly as Queen’s Counsel, conducting many trials, including murder trials in the Central Criminal Court, known colloquially and fondly as “The Old Bailey”. Available from Amazon.

22.7.15

Book recommendation: Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael Sandel

Is killing sometimes morally required? Is the free market fair? It is sometimes wrong to tell the truth? What is justice, and what does it mean? These and other questions are at the heart of Michael Sandel's Justice. Considering the role of justice in our society and our lives, he reveals how an understanding of philosophy can help to make sense of politics, religion, morality - and our own convictions. Breaking down hotly contested issues, from abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage, to patriotism, dissent and affirmative action, Sandel shows how the biggest questions in our civiv life can be broken down and illuminated through reasoned debate. Justice promises to take readers - of all ages and political persuasions - on an exhilarating journey to confront controversies in a fresh and enlightening way. Available from Amazon.

15.7.15

Book recommendation: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood. Available from Amazon.

8.7.15

Book recommendation: A Certain Justice (Inspector Adam Dalgliesh Book 10) by P.D. James

From P.D. James, one of the masters of British crime fiction comes the tenth novel to feature commander Adam Dalgliesh. A Certain Justice is a chilling murder mystery packed with forensic detail, set in the treacherous legal world of London. Venetia Aldridge QC is a distinguished barrister. When she agrees to defend Garry Ashe, accused of the brutal murder of his aunt, it is one more opportunity to triumph in her distinguished career as a criminal lawyer. But just four weeks later, Miss Aldridge is found dead at her desk. Commander Adam Dalgliesh, called in to investigate, finds motives for murder among the clients Venetia has defended, her professional colleagues, her family - even her lover. As Dalgliesh narrows the field of suspects, a second brutal murder draws them into greater complexities of intrigue and evil. P.D. James, the bestselling author of Death Comes to Pemberley, Children of Men and Death In Holy Orders, once again explores the mysterious and intense emotions responsible for the unique crime of murder, with authority and sensitivity. A Certain Justice is set in the legal world of London and possesses all of the qualities which distinguish P.D. James as a novelist. Available from Amazon.

1.7.15

Book recommendation: The Two-Sided Man: A Selection of the Short Stories of Rudyard Kipling by Brian Harris OBE, QC

Somerset Maugham once described Rudyard Kipling as ‘our greatest short story writer’, adding, ‘I can’t believe he will ever be equalled. I am sure he will never be excelled.’ Known by many only for The Jungle Book and the Just So stories, Kipling’s range was in fact much wider. Most readers will be familiar with his stories about India and many know of his adventure tale, ‘The Man who would be King’ which was made into a record-breaking film, but how many are aware of his horror stories like ‘The Strange Ride of Morrowbie Jukes’, his ghost stories like ‘They’, his mystery stories like ‘The Wish House’, his revenge stories like ‘Dayspring Mishandled’, or the enigmatical, ‘Mary Postgate’? All can be found in this anthology of sixteen of his favourite Kipling stories. It comes with an introductory essay by Brian Harris setting the author against the background of his family, his school and his times, confronting head-on such issues as his political and religious views and his supposed racialism. After posing the question, why should we read Kipling today, Mr Harris answers, ‘Here is someone who paid the respect that is due, but not always accorded even now, to the alien, the poor and the oppressed. As the unofficial spokesman of the greatest empire in the history of the world he described accurately and sympathetically the lives of the peoples living under its jurisdiction. Though no orthodox believer, he prized and in his writings illustrated the great Christian virtues of charity, compassion and forgiveness, as well as the more modest British virtue of toleration. Nor is it possible to read his stories without being surprised by the light they so often throw on the eternal mysteries of love, pain and loss. Ultimately, however, we read him, as our parents did before us, for sheer enjoyment. The Two-Sided Man comes hard on the heels of Mr Harris’ anthology of Kipling’s poetry (‘The Surprising Mr Kipling’) Available from Amazon.