Number eleven in this fifteen book series about solicitor Rosa Epton. The character has been referred to as England’s Perry Mason. Her partner is Robin Snaith. She started out as his clerk. The series started in 1980 with “Crime Upon Crime.” The last published book was “Guilty Conscience” in 1992.
In this one Rosa gets the case of Stephen Lumley from Robin who is too busy to handle it. Lumley has a wife and two young children. He’s broke. He drove a taxi and got into an accident and the insurance company wouldn’t pay up because they said it was his fault. He would go to his Uncle Bernard for money. The last time the two argued and Stephen threatened him when he wouldn’t give him any money.
After a couple months Stephen decides to try again. He goes to his uncle’s jewelry shop. By sheer coincidence two men in disguise walk in. One takes a hammer and smashes a case and starts helping himself. Bernard comes from out of the back and is shot in the shoulder. The thieves run out and so does Stephen. Bernard is convinced Stephen set the whole thing up.
Now he’s waiting in prison for trial. Over the course of six months his wife comes to visit but he doesn’t have much to say to her as he’s gotten very depressed. She says the kids have been told he’s in the hospital. It’s a hard trip to see him and when he’s transferred to a prison even further away his wife’s visits become less and less. Rosa represents him and through it all her maintains his innocence..
Investigations of possible suspects come to nothing and there are no leads as to the men who pulled off the robbery. The prosecution makes a big point of the fact that Stephen ran away from the store. If he was innocent, why didn’t he stick around? To his slight advantage is the fact he didn’t fire the gun and wasn’t wearing a disguise. All in all it still doesn’t look good and Rosa is starting to do what she’s always been warned against, becoming emotionally involved in a case. Rosa has Paul Maxted to defend Stephen. He ends up being sentenced to six years.
Rosa thinks it’s a miscarriage of justice and goes full tilt into investigating the case. She enlists the help of office worker Ben. They find out that a man named Leslie Dingle was fired by Bernard a while back for dishonesty. Things grind to a halt when his strangled body is found in the back seat of a car in a parking lot.
Then a third crime is committed. Do not read the dust jacket as this will spoil this development.The book is another good one from the always reliable Underwood. There are a few things in Rosa’s life that progress but that doesn’t mean the series has to be read in order.