BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT (Elliot Rook, QC Book 1) by Gary Bell #BeyondReasonableDoubt @garybellqc @BloomsburyRaven @EmmaFinnigan @damppebbles #damppebblesblogtours

Beyond Reasonable Doubt by Gary Bell QC and Scott Kershaw
Published by Bloomsbury Raven
Available in Ebook and Hardback (13 June 2019)
352 pages
Source: Copy provided for review by publisher

My thanks to Emma of Damppebbles tours for the invitation to take part in the tour and to the publisher for providing the review copy.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Elliot Rook QC is one of the greatest barristers of his generation.

He is also a complete fraud.

Elliot Rook is the epitome of a highly successful, old Etonian QC. Or so everyone believes. In fact, he is an ex-petty criminal with a past that he has spent decades keeping secret. Until now.

An unidentified young woman of Middle Eastern origin has been found murdered on the outskirts of Rook’s home town. Billy Barber – a violent football hooligan and white-supremacist – is accused of her murder. Barber insists that Rook must defend him. If Rook refuses, Barber will expose him, bringing crashing to the ground the life and career that Rook has spent his life building.

The truth is there for the finding. But at what cost?

The start of a thrilling new legal series, perfect for fans of Robert Galbraith and The Secret Barrister, written by an acclaimed QC.

MY THOUGHTS

I do love a legal thriller and was extremely excited by this when I received the invitation to review, and even better that it’s the start of a new series.

Elliot Rook is unlike many barristers. He does not have the Eton background; rather his past is one that he would much rather keep hidden.  He left his old life behind in a mining village in Nottingham with a criminal record and a desire to better himself – which he has done.  He is now a successful QC, currently only one person in Chambers knows his secret but all that could change with his next case.

When Percy Peck, Clerk to the Chambers, casually dismisses Zara Barnes for a position as a pupil because she was inadvertently late for an appointment, it was her lucky day to run into Rook on the doorstep.  She impresses him with her quick mind and against protocol, he takes her on as a junior.

Rook is in the middle of a complicated fraud case but when an old acquaintance from his home town, a vile racist thug Billy Barber decides he wants Rook to defend him against a charge of murder at the Old Bailey, Rook is in no position to argue, especially against the threat of his past being disclosed if he declines.

Split into 4 parts – The Pupil, The Defendant, The Trial, and finally The Truth and Nothing But.., the story focuses on both Rook’s own investigations and his part in the courtroom.  Rook decides with the help of Zara to make his own enquiries into Billy’s defence which involves going back to Nottingham and being reminded of his past. 

Rook and his ‘Rookie’ Zara make a great pairing; I loved their working relationship and would like to see it continued in future stories.  They both come from similar working-class backgrounds and they work so well together with the cynicism of middle-aged Rook balanced against the humour and enthusiasm of his young protégé. Rook is weary, newly divorced and not in a great place.  Zara Barnes is a young Muslim girl, facing discrimination and racism and having to fight for her place in the legal system that she so badly wants to be part of. 

Woven amongst the story are observations and asides about the legal process and historic practice both of Chambers and the courts which I found really interesting. 

Despite his often grumpy and cutting manner, Rook has an engaging side to him, and he is definitely someone you would want fighting your corner. He’s a maverick, with an unpredictable nature, a quick wit and makes for an admirable adversary in the courtroom. 

I really enjoyed this and it is definitely a series that I want to follow.  The writing is excellent and Gary Bell’s collaboration with writer Scott Kershaw has produced a story that has authenticity, well developed characters and high drama. Highly recommended.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born into a coal mining family, Gary Bell QC left school without any qualifications and was an apprentice mechanic, fork lift truck driver, production line worker, builder, fireman and door-to-door salesman, as well as a notorious football hooligan, before being arrested for fraud aged 18. After a brief stint in prison he set off to seek fame and fortune abroad and, after two years drifting around Europe ended up penniless and homeless. He next enrolled in a FE College to study his O and A levels, and then went on to study law as a mature student at Bristol University where he ‘became’ an Old Etonian. After graduating he spent a year as a litigation lawyer in Beverly Hills before coming back to England to become a barrister. He has spent over thirty years at the Bar, specialising in defending in major fraud and murder trials, becoming a QC in 2012. Always on the look out for challenges and opportunities he has also been an award winning stand-up comedian; an after-dinner speaker (when at University he won several national debating competitions and was runner up in the World’s Humorous Debating Competition at Princeton); he has learned to fly a plane, hosted his own TV show (the Legalizer) on BBC1; writes regularly for national newspapers; has a column in The Spectator and wrote his best-selling autobiography, Animal QC.

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