A good whodunnit, which is easy to read and lots of fun.

Post Mortem is Gary Bell’s second novel, and once again co-written with Scott Kershaw. This time Elliot Rook QC and his pupil, Zara Barnes, find the cases they are each defending are closely intertwined. Rook has been retained to defend a junior prison officer at HMP Wormwood Scrubs who is accused of smuggling drugs into the prison; and Zara Barnes is trying to get her young client off a drug dealing charge.

Of course neither case is straightforward. Rook’s client, Charli Meadows, is a young, single mum struggling to make ends meet, and there’s no doubt the drugs were found in her car. What’s at issue is whether she was the one to put them there.

Zara’s client was in the wrong place at the wrong time, arrested by the police in a pub that was being raided. He hadn’t had any drugs on him when he was arrested and the police don’t seem interested in questioning why he was there. But they definitely don’t want him out on bail.

The story is actually pretty pacey, and everything traces back to a power struggle between drug gangs. But the senior criminals are shadowy figures, known of and talked about but never seen. As the court deadlines loom, Rook and Barnes race around trying to gather the evidence they need to clear their respective clients and in between times there are death threats, chases, and even fighting dogs.

The legal scenes are fun too, with a good cast of characters in the barristers’ chambers and the courts. At times it’s a sort of cross between Kavanagh QC and Rumpole of the Bailey.

You have to suspend your disbelief reading these books. The idea that a QC, however chequered his past, would have so much hands-on involvement in solving crimes is ridiculous. But somehow Gary Bell manages to carry it off with these stories. His debut novel (Beyond Reasonable Doubt) had a really unexpected twist at the end; and this one does too.

These are good whodunnits, easy to read and lots of fun. Rook and Barnes make a good pair, bouncing ideas off each other and pulling at the clues until they’ve worked things out. This is described as a legal thriller on the cover, and that’s what it is. There are no great insights into character or cause. It’s just an enjoyable read and none the worse for that. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series. 4-Stars.
Review by: Cornish Eskimo

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