Member Review

Calling Down the Storm

Pub Date:

Review by

Richard C, Educator

Last updated on 11 Jul 2017
I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.  Written by Peter Murphy and published by No Exit Press in 2017, this starts out looking like a traditional British police procedural, but that changes quickly.  The story begins with the stabbing, in the middle of the day and on a public street, of an estranged wife by her husband.  It then quickly morphs into a description of the private life of a barrister who wears silk (Queen’s Counsel — QC), and who develops a serious gambling problem before becoming a judge who will eventually preside in the trial of the accused husband.  A third minor thread deals with the barristers who will handle both sides of the murder case.

The setting is London in 1971.  The author goes into a great amount of detail regarding the gambling habits and sex life of the QC who later becomes a judge, and the story’s dialogues are accurate depictions of the way lawyers speak — especially in courtrooms.  English speakers who reside in any one of the countries that share the British legal system will probably have no trouble following the story line, but Americans might not find it so easy.  Barristers and solicitors might be unfamiliar to Americans, but not to anybody acquainted with the British legal system.   This isn’t the place for a lesson on the subject, but a simplistic explanation for Americans might be that barristers are akin to trial lawyers in the United States, and solicitors are like lawyers who practice law and deal with clients, but do not present cases in courtrooms.  The role of barristers in the UK has changed, and this is probably why the author set the book in 1971.  

Mr. Murphy did his research well.  The gambling game that gets the judge into trouble (Chemin de Fer) is presented accurately, as is the real Clermont Club where the gambling takes place.  There really is a Clermont Club in London, and the author actually visited it while writing the book.  There really is a game called Chemin de Fer, and it is the forerunner of the game we now call Baccarat.  The dialogue and events described in the book are very detailed and realistic.  

The three major plot lines come together seamlessly before the end of the book, and the author is careful to tie up loose ends.  The ending will come as a surprise to many.  It did to me.  On the negative side, there was a bit too much unnecessary detail that could certainly have been omitted without detracting from the story.  Some of the dialog is repetitious.  Some of the details of the judge’s sexcapades could have been omitted without seriously detracting from the story.  All in all, however, I very much enjoyed the book and would recommend to anybody who might like a realistic British legal story with a touch of murder.

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