Blog Tour – Summary Justice – John Fairfax

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BLURB: The last time Tess de Vere saw William Benson she was a law student on work experience. He was a twenty-one year old, led from the dock of the Old Bailey to begin a life sentence for murder. He’d said he was innocent. She’d believed him.

Sixteen years later Tess overhears a couple of hacks mocking a newcomer to the London Bar, a no-hoper with a murder conviction, running his own show from an old fishmonger’s in Spitalfields. That night she walks back into Benson’s life. The price of his rehabilitation – and access to the Bar – is an admission of guilt to the killing of Paul Harbeton, whose family have vowed revenge. He’s an outcast. The government wants to shut him down and no solicitor will instruct him. But he’s subsidised by a mystery benefactor and a desperate woman has turned to him for help: Sarah Collingstone, mother of a child with special needs, accused of slaying her wealthy lover. It’s a hopeless case and the murder trial, Benson’s first, starts in four days. The evidence is overwhelming but like Benson long ago, she swears she’s innocent. Tess joins the defence team, determined to help Benson survive. But as Benson follows the twists and turns in the courtroom, Tess embarks upon a secret investigation of her own, determined to uncover the truth behind the death of Paul Harbeton on a lonely night in Soho.

True to life, fast-paced and absolutely compelling, Summary Justice introduces a new series of courtroom dramas featuring two maverick lawyers driven to fight injustice at any cost.

I absolutely love reading about the law – I used to collect the green Penguin Notable Trials series, which gave you every detail of some of the most notorious trials in British history, as well as others that had been lost in time – all fascinating.

This is a legal thriller, but in this book, all the thrills are in the courtroom, or to do with evidence they’ve uncovered outside. And the lead character is not your average lawyer…

Will Benson is a barrister, and a very unusual one – he has a murder conviction of his own. He spent eleven years inside for a murder he swore he didn’t commit. After a discussion with his counsel pre-verdict, an anonymous benefactor paid for the former philosophy student to study law whilst inside, and bought him a barge to live on when he got out. After a great many appeals to various committees with archaic names, his argument that the legal profession should not be closed to those who’ve made a mistake, admitted their guilt (one of the conditions of getting parole; privately, he maintains his innocence), and who want to move on with their life and contribute to society.

He hangs round courts, getting little scraps of cases thrown to him here and there by sympathetic colleagues and his former counsel, until the requisite three years are up and he can set up on his own. Archie, a former fishmonger who he met inside (fiddling taxes) persuades his father to let him work out of their old fishmonger’s shop, on the condition Archie is employed as a clerk. Understandably, there’s a great media hullabaloo, with two petitions – one on behalf of the family of the man he killed, run by – of course – The Sun, and the other called, “Everyone Deserves A Second Chance.” And then he gets the big one – a murder case. With four days until trial, a thirtysomething mother of a disabled son called Sarah Ravenscroft sacks her counsel and asks Will to represent her.

Tess de Vere, a law student who was part of Will’s original trial team on work experience, and who initially encouraged him to go for it when it came to studying law and gaining entry for the bar, is not long back in London after working in Strasbourg, and at lunch one day overhears fellow diners gossiping about an ex-murderer practising out of a fishmonger’s shop, and knows Will’s got to where he wants to be. When she reads about the murder case, she arrives at his barge, where he lives with his cat called Papillon, and asks if she can join the defence team. He’s delighted to see her, and accepts her offer of help gratefully. Her being a lawyer at one of the top firms in the City (who aren’t too chuffed about her hitching their name to such a controversial character) adds some clout to their case – but could also endanger her future there.

As for the case, I’ll just give you the very basics as you must read this book to find out the rest. The Crown’s case is that Sarah Collingstone was having an affair with the deceased, Andrew Bealing, who ran, amongst other interests, a haulage company. She was employed by him to oversee the management of three shops, although she was underqualified for the job. She has a severely disabled 18-year-old son to care for, and her father had given up a promising acting career to help out, bringing in what income he could from a part-time teaching job in a drama school and reading audiobooks. Her son’s father was killed in a car accident prior to his son’s birth, and after Daniel stopped breathing at 10 days old (he was also born prematurely, possibly as a result of the car accident, of which Sarah was the only survivor) and was found to have brain damage, the Greene family had no interest in him, even moving away. Bealing was a very rich man, and the Crown contends Sarah saw him as her ticket out of poverty. But when he tried to end the affair, she lashed out and struck him in the throat with the neck of a broken beer bottle, on which her DNA was found, and he bled to death inside his own warehouse, whilst his killer watched him die – after kicking the phone out of his hands after he dialled 999, but before he could press call…

This is what Will, Tess, Archie, and the Tuesday Night Club, a gang of ex-cons who meet weekly for support, all with many different skills and connections, are up against, and the courtroom scenes are incredibly gripping – as are Will, et al’s investigations into other possible scenarios.

Tess also decides to find out – without Will’s knowledge – who really killed Paul Harbeton that night Will’s life as he knew it also came to an end, with the hope of being appeal his conviction. But what will she discover as she opens this Pandora’s Box?

I think this is the first book I’ve been halfway through and looked, gutted, at how little I’ve left!

This is the first in a series of Benson and de Vere novels, and it’s already been optioned for “multi-part prestige TV serials” by the company who produced The Constant Gardener and A Most Wanted Man films. That’s totally understandable – this is fantastic, incredibly tense and gripping, with plenty of realism, and likeable, complex lead characters, with a particularly sympathetic lead. Read it now, before there’s a string of them to catch up and it’s on TV!

Don’t miss it, m’Lud!

My thanks to Little, Brown for an advance copy of this book in return for this unbiased review.



6 thoughts on “Blog Tour – Summary Justice – John Fairfax

  1. This really does look like a fascinating sort of context and case! I’m intrigued by both cases, and the characters sound interesting, too. Glad you enjoyed this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like a good courtroom drama – Scott Throw is my favourite; if there’s any others you could recommend I’d love to hear about them! Grisham has gone a bit off the boil for me – too predictable! The underdog always wins, eventually! I blame watching LA Law with my mum when I was ages 12-14 for my obsession with them – and then Law & Order, naturally!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You sold me on this one. I just went and got it on audio, so will see how I fare that way. I love complicated legal thrillers. Good to get in on a series at the beginning too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh me too, as I was saying to Margot, so if you can think of any I haven’t come across, I’d love to hear about them! I think this would work perfectly on audio, as long as it’s a good narrator. And the case is lovely and complex – you need to be on your toes. It’s not a book you could read over a long period of time, as there’s so many details to remember. It totally wrongfooted me over “whodunit” as well – I seem to be losing my touch! I have had a really good run of reading material recently, touch wood it’ll continue!


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