No Fear or Favour by Henry Cecil
Created: Mon Mar 22 18:15:14 2010 | Last modified: Mon Mar 22 18:15:14 2010
Let me first of all make it clear that the publishers have disgraced themselves with the cover of this book (and the blurb) which have absolutely no relation to the actual story. It reeks of unprofessionalism and sloppiness when it's absolutely obvious that the blurb not only gets the names badly mixed up but actually get the plot wrong completely. Shame on them. Now on to the plot.
A dangerous blackmailing gang is on the loose, preying mercilessly on human weakness and individuals who've commited indiscretions in the circumstances of their daily lives. Under a variety of cover-names, this gang is a menace to the general public until one of their victims decides to hit back. Slowly but surely the police get on to the gang and busts the agents, but the mastermind behind these operations remains elusive. However, thanks to the work of a brave young woman he is brought to justice at last. But is he really?
In this crime thriller cum courtroom drama, Henry Cecil certainly keeps the reader in suspense until the very end. Before long, it's not only obvious that the accused man, Clifton Ledbury, is indeed the mastermind, but also that he is prepared to go to any lengths to get himself acquitted, including blackmailing the trial judge himself! How he does this with the help of his villainous brother is what forms the rest of the story. Judge Hereford is a man of integrity and honour, but when his young daughter is kidnapped during Cliff's trial, he is naturally terribly worried and confused about the course of action he should pursue. Should he continue to carry out his duties according to his judicial oath in the highest tradition of the English Bench by trying the case without fear or favour and risk losing his daughter, or should he give in to the kidnappers' threats and somehow convince the jury that the man indeed is not guilty? I won't reveal any more of the plot, but let it be said that Cecil doesn't let you down with this one.
Henry Cecil certainly takes a lot of effort to portray the crime of blackmailing in its darkest, ugliest shades. While his narrative technique might not appeal to many, the matter of fact way in which he introduces the actions of the villains do have an effect. There is also a sense of danger throughout the story which keeps the plot moving forward at a fair pace. The courtroom scenes are masterfully created and it is obvious that they are Cecil's best narrative devices. Right until the very end, one is not sure of the result of Clifton's desperate gamble for freedom and the fate of the judge's daughter. Not one of Henry Cecil's more humourous novels, but nevertheless deserves a 3.5/5 rating.