Source: Review copy
Publication: 24th May 2018 from No Exit Press
If you like Rumpole of the Bailey, you’ll love Walden of Bermondsey
Judge Walden is back, to preside over five new cases at Bermondsey Crown Court.
Retired resident judge Peter Murphy takes us back to the world of criminal trials in South London for another session with Charlie Walden keeping the peace between his fellow judges – Marjorie, ‘Legless’ and Hubert – while fighting off the attacks of the Grey Smoothies, the civil servants who seem intent on reducing the court’s dwindling resources to vanishing point in the name of ‘business cases’ and ‘value for money’.
Meet the rum and memorable characters who pop into Charlie’s domain, including Lester Fogle from one of London’s Disorganised Crime Families, Arthur Swivell the one-time Bermondsey singing legend and the very unbardlike Elias Shakespeare. And you will never feel the same about ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ or the Entente Cordiale again.
Fortunately, Charlie has Elsie and Jeanie’s lattes and ham and cheese baps, and newspaper vendor George’s witty banter, to sustain him in the mornings; and in the evenings, the Delights of the Raj, or La Bella Napoli, to enjoy with the Reverend Mrs Walden.
What a privilege it is to be starting the blog tour for this great series of criminal cases.
Before I picked up Judge Walden: Back in Session, I thought I would have a look at Peter Murphy’s first Walden book, Walden of Bermondsey, in which we meet Judge Walden. In it, Walden deals with just one case. There is no necessity to read the first book, Back in Session works perfectly well as a stand-alone, but there are six cases; five in Judge Walden:Back in Session and I wanted to read them all.
Now, I have a bit of a fascination with the law. Several of my friends are advocates and at one time I used to enjoy evenings down the pub hearing about the latest ‘six accused’ or whatever the trial of the week was. Those were Scottish High Court trials; Judge Walden sits in a South London Crown Court where 62 year old Charlie Walden sits as the Resident Judge of Bermondsey Crown Court.
The great joy of a Crown Court is that it is easier to play a little more lightly with the crimes committed knowing that the sentences for these crimes are unlikely to be very severe. The upshot is that what we have is a wry and very witty slice of life look at a series of intriguing and fascinating cases tried by Charlie Walden and his sometimes slightly eccentric colleagues in Bermondsey Crown Court.
Murphy’s background is that of a practicing lawyer and judge, and these books have about them an undeniable air of authenticity as well as exploring some of the more interesting aspects of the law.
Judge Charlie Walden is a bit of an old fashioned chap; not out of touch, but a believer in old fashioned values, justice and the rule of law. If only though his job were all about the law, but sadly he often has to try and keep the peace between three very different fellow judges who have opposing views about how their jobs should be done. It isn’t really his colleagues who concern Charlie the most though, nor is it the food in the judicial mess, which gives him daily cause for serious thought.
No, what really gets to him is the endless meddling of the ‘Grey Smoothies’, the bland faced grey-suited civil servants whose aim in life is to strip the judiciary system of even more resources and make everyone’s life harder. There is a significant point here about how much damage is being done to the court system as a result of political decisions. Justice is being denied to people because of political decisions about legal aid, cuts to courts and staff, general insidious decline, and disempowering the judiciary.
So for Charlie, who actually likes his job when there’s none of that useless bureaucratic distraction going on, his real job – trying the challenging criminal cases that come before him – is actually light relief.
Charlie is married to the ‘Reverend’, the priest in charge of the Parish of St Aethelburgh and All Angels in Southwark and they live in an old and draughty Victorian vicarage, not too far from the court. Mrs Walden actually has a featured role in his first case, but this is not a regular occurrence, though he does enjoy discussing his cases with her at the end of the day.
I really loved these books. The characters are so well drawn; the dialogue sparkles and the cases themselves, though imagined, have enough truth about them to be really interesting. Murphy lets his protagonist shine through as a decent chap trying to do his best in difficult circumstances to make sure that real justice prevails.
He does so in a convincing, warm and humorous manner. Though I devoured both these books pretty quickly, they are books you could go back to, perhaps to cheer yourself up; to remind you that it is possible to triumph over nit –picking grey bureaucrats or simply to revel in prose that makes you smile because these are characters you really like.
I could read lots more of Judge Walden’s delightfully written cases. I really hope I get the opportunity soon.
About Peter Murphy
Peter Murphy was born in 1946. After graduating from Cambridge University he spent a career in the law, as an advocate and teacher, both in England and the United States. His legal work included a number of years in The Hague as defence counsel at the Yugoslavian War Crimes Tribunal. He returned to England in 2007 on his appointment as a judge of the Crown Court. He lives with his wife, Chris, in Cambridgeshire.
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