by Henry Cecil
“And anyone can avoid going to prison under a judgement summons by going bankrupt?”
“Quite correct,” said Henry.
“Then why doesn’t everyone do that?”
“Several reasons. Some people can’t raise the ten pounds to go bankrupt.”
“So a man with ten pounds can avoid going to prison and a man without can’t?”
Makes much sense? Not really, right? Well, that is how the law works. Or used to work… And that is a reason why this writer is still highly popular among lawyers.
You see, there are many great authors who only manage to leave a fleeting impression on the fickle minds that make up our society, and are thereby eventually relegated to a niche audience.
Unfortunately, such is the case of Henry Cecil. While his books may have once commanded praise from even the likes of P.G. Wodehouse, his popularity, or the lack thereof, does not do justice to the quality of his works.
For one, if you can keep an Indian teenager, whose understanding of the legal profession in general, and the legal system prevalent in 1940s Britain in particular, is meagre at best, interested enough that he finishes the book in a single sitting, and thoroughly enjoys himself at that, then you are quite certainly a genius.
Okay, when I say meagre, I am being modest. If your father began his legal career when you were 7 years old, and if he regularly discusses curious cases and interesting incidents with you, and if, quite importantly, you are smart enough to comprehend what he is saying, your understanding of the legal profession would not be meagre…
It is also noteworthy that if the aforementioned teen had grown up reading Douglas Adams, his appetite for this particular, characteristically dry and undeniably British, variety of humour would be higher than usual…
And, as you would probably have guessed, it was my father who introduced me to Cecil’s books, with Brothers in Law being one of the first. And, as with Blindsight, this book serves as the launchpad for Roger Thursby, the young lawyer who appears in another two books.
Now, as we can all imagine, the early days at your first job will always be challenging. You would take a while to understand where to be, what to do and how to act. And if, through the unwitting actions of your unreliable boss and mentor, you find yourself handling a case in front of domineering judge with no prior preparation, one can understand if you crash and burn. And that is what happens with our young protagonist.
Add to that the fact that you live alone with your dearly ditzy mother, and find yourself in love with two young ladies, and you have got yourself an interesting plot.
The ultimate selling point of this book, as with most of his books, is the writer’s astute observation of how the law works, and how it occasionally doesn’t. Once again, it is the writer’s real-life experience as a lawyer, and later as a judge, that sets his books apart from the rest.
The detractors of this book complain that since the legal system, and really the entire society, has changed over the past several decades, the audience would not relate to it.
While I do accept that the society has changed, as demonstrated by the diminishment in the class and gender divide, the basic nature of humans does not change; neither does the essence of the law.
And if an audience can relate to a world that has never existed, managing to do so with one that did exist a few years back does not seem unreasonable.
Still, the niche does exist for a reason…
Either way, you can find the book here:
And even if you don’t enjoy it all that much, you have at max wasted 6 hours of your life. Cut an hour of sleep for a week, and your will have it covered.
Well, that is all for today…
PS: The pages of this book smell of vanilla. Just saying…