Unlawful Occasions by Henry Cecil
Created: Tue Mar 23 12:15:35 2010 | Last modified: Tue Mar 23 12:15:35 2010
Another fantastic, thrilling legal fiction, I think this is one of the best Henry Cecil novels written yet. It builds up the atmosphere beautifully and the twist at the end literally got me jumping up and down with excitement. Probably one of the most ingenious novels I've read, and I've read a lot.
A Mrs. Verney is approached by a blackmailer and she confides in the Barrister who happens to live in the house below her for advice. But there is a twist! This blackmailer is a peculiar character who approaches the Barrister himself with a hint or two that he knows something about him which he had done in the past and which might lead to a disgraceful end to his career if reported.
The story proceeds at a deliberate pace full of throbbing suspense. Brian Culsworth, the Barrister in question, has to fight with his own conscience whether to go to the police and risk getting disbarred from practising Law for a particular misconduct of the past or tell lies on oath if he is called to give evidence in another case which is unrelated to the issue but where his conduct in the past might well be questioned. This leads to a dramatic build up of tension throughout the novel. And all the while, the blackmailer, Mr. Sampson, remains in the background: never threatening openly, but going around the Temple spreading general panic among the lawyers and their clerks - throwing hints here and there and ingeniously and indirectly helping in spreading rumours that a serious, professional blackmailer is on the prowl.
However when the police finally decide to question Mr. Sampson, there is a surprising twist again. He denies hotly of having blackmailed anybody and brings on an action for libel against newspapers which have published such damaging statements against him and since nobody in the Temple is willing to give evidence against him partly because of their own concerns and partly because nothing in his conduct towards them could be construed as attempted blackmail, Mrs. Verney is the only hope of bringing him to justice.
Do they succeed or does Mr. Sampson have something else up his sleeve? I won't reveal too many more plot elements here, but prepare to be surprised by the book which has twists and turns at every unexpected corner...
A definite must read and a definite thumbs up. I rate it 5 out of 5 simply because I couldn't put it down from the moment I picked it up till I finished the last page...