Summary Justice 1: The Novel Structure

As regular readers of HogwartsProfessor know, October will be dedicated in large part to discussion of the William Brodrick (writing as ‘John Fairfax’) novels Summary Justice and Blind Defence (not a typo).  We’ll start with Justice, the first book of the series, for two weeks of posts and, beginning on the 14th, we’ll move on to Defence and speculation about book three, Forced Confessions, due out in March 2020.

Why are we reading these books? Why now? I’ve explained this in previous posts at some length but the short answer is that there are fascinating parallels and correspondences between the Brodrick/Fairfax coutroom dramas and its lead players, William Benson and Tess de Vere, and the Rowling/Galbraith murder mysteries featuring Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott-Cunliffe. Beyond the famous-author-with-transparent-pseudonym, we have a brilliant couple linked professionally with the matter of justice being done with respect to murder who cannot or will not become romantically entwined. More important, we have two series with over-arching mysteries for which we are given important clues in slow release in the stand-alone novels.

Today’s first post is a very quick look at the story structure. I doubt any other reviewer’s reflex when reading a story is to chart out the lay-out of the story-telling (please send me a url if you find any of Fairfax’s readers have done this already!). I believe, though, via Nabokov and Lewis, that the story structure, a large even the greatest part of the ‘how’ of writing, makes up most of the ‘what.’ As Cleanth Brooks noted, “Form is meaning.”

I won’t be doing a full ring analysis today but I do want to note the obvious relationships of the story parts in Summary Justice and suggest not only what this means for the first novel but what it may indicate about the series as a whole. There will of course be plenty of spoilers, no apologies or warnings, so if you haven’t read the book and want to do so without knowing the finish, well, stop right here. [Read more…]

Mail Bag: Books Like Cormoran Strike?

Hello Professor,

I love all of your articles on the Strike series. I have read the series several times now and I’m dying for the next one. The detective genre is completely out of my wheelhouse as I usually read epic fantasy like Robert Jordon or Brandon Sanderson. But I’m enjoying this so much I would like to read more like it and I was wondering if you had any books or authors to recommend that are similar to the Strike series.

Hope you are having a great weekend.

Phil

Great question, Phil! Here are five recommendations for murder mystery books with a Cormoran Strike resonance:

(1) John Fairfax’s Benson and De Vere courtroom dramas

We’ll be discussing the first, Summary Justice, here beginning tomorrow! Go here for more on these stories and their relationship with Strike.

(2) Ian Rankin’s John Rebus novels

Cormoran Strike is in several ways Rowling’s re-imagining of Rankin’s John Rebus but with him set in London rather than Edinburgh and as a private detective rather than police officer. ‘Ian Rankin and Cormoran Strike‘ is a good first stop to learn about these two.

(3) P. D. James’ Cordelia Gray thrillers

There are only two, alas, but it is hard to overstate the influence of Cordelia Gray on Galbraith’s Robin Ellacott. Check out the Duchess of Malfi debts discussed here.

(4) Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie books

I’m just starting Case Histories but, having read Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Life after Life, and A God in Ruins, I’m more than confident that Rowling is a great fan of Atkinson and that Cormoran Strike and Jackson Brodie would recognize each other as types.

(5) Boris Akunin’s Sister Pelagia mysteries

Akunin is a treasure whose Erast Fandorin novels — each a different genre (I kid you not) — are an international sensation and delight. His much shorter series on a plucky Orthodox nun in Tsarist Russia who is given leave to re-join the world in disguise to investigate crimes in obedience to her bishop are personal favorites despite its train wreck of a finish to this trilogy.

I hope that helps! If others have recommendations, please click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ button up by the post headline and share your favorites in the comment boxes below!

Tomorrow, the bracketing structure of Summary Justice…

Will Benson and Tess De Vere Last Call: ‘Summary Justice’ On Deck at HogPro

On 1 October we will begin discussion of the John Fairfax (aka William Brodrick) novel Summary Justice. I have explained why and my excitement about this first book and the series of novels it introduces here and here and here. We’ll move on to the second book of the Benson-de Vere court room thrillers, Blind Defence, on 14 October and speculation about the third, Forced Confessions, that will be out in March 2020.

Today, in hope of encouraging you to pick up the book at your local library or to buy it online or at your local bricks-and-mortar store, I will list as my ‘Last Call!’ seven of the topics scheduled for this first week of discussion:

  • ‘Did He Do It?’ The big question of the series is whether the hero, William Benson, actually committed the murder for which he was convicted and imprisoned as a young man. We’ll list the evidence for and against that is provided in Summary Justice.
  • The Cratylic Names: Benson, and De Vere, certainly, but what about ‘John Fairfax,’ a name associated in the UK with a heroic athlete and with a creative writing teacher;
  • Benson/Strike: Comparing and contrasting the main male characters of the two series
  • De Vere/Ellacott: Comparing and contrasting the main female characters of the two series
  • Rowling/Galbraith versus Brodrick/Fairfax: The similarities and the differences in their choices of and decisions to use a pseudonym;
  • The Slow Release: We get a story that is told against the backdrop and bracketing of the larger mystery in Summary Justice. Here the larger story is Benson’s murder rap with some questions about de Vere’s escape to and return from Belgium. Does Fairfax’s use of this continued story model compare favorably with Galbraith’s slow release of details about Leda Strike’s death, Cormoran’s history at Oxford and Afghanistan, the Charlotte lost child, and Robin’s reasons for not completing her university degree?
  • The Romance: Well, does Benson love de Vere? She him? What’s going on in this bizarro relationship of inspiration, admiration, curiosity, and secret-keeping?

Get reading — and feel free to keep notes on any and all of these question topics for our discussion that begins here on 1 October!

Will Benson and Tess De Vere Reminder: ‘Summary Justice’ On Deck at HogPro

I have just finished John Fairfax’s Summary Justice, the first of his courtroom thrillers featuring the convicted-murderer-become-barrister William Benson and his much more conventional and accredited lawyer cum tutor Tess de Vere. I am delighted to say it is a winner and a wonderful opening to what looks to be a series somewhat akin to the Cormoran Strike – Robin Ellacott detective mysteries.

The three biggest points of correspondence are just the ones you’d want to find if you’re a Serious Striker.

First, the novel was a satisfying story unto itself with twists upon twists, spectacular back and forth revelations in the Old Bailey, and delightfully involved narratives written by both the murder victim and by the murderer. Summary Justice works as a stand-alone book.

Second, there are two background mysteries akin to Robin’s reasons for dropping out of college and the death of Leda Strike. Tess de Vere has just returned to the UK after years overseas and why she left and came back is only hinted at (her best friend Sally really wants to know). More important and urgent is whether Benson did or not did not commit the murder for which he was convicted and served eleven years in prison. Tess sets out with Sally to find out who killed Paul Harbeton if it wasn’t Benson — and what Tess learns and what we see of Will’s time at home with father and brother is not especially reassuring with respect to his innocence.

Third, the lead characters and the supporting cast are well-drawn, credible, and engaging. Benson’s sidekick from prison, Archie Congreve, his legal secretary, Molly Robson, and his legal mentor and seeming Magwitch, Miss Camberley, promise to be constants and delights in the novels to come.

I look forward, then, to starting the next book, Blind Defence, which I’m sure will be another thrill-ride, to taking the next step forward in it to learning about the over-arching mysteries, and just to spending time with Will, Tess, and Company. As I do with Strike5, right?

Please do get a copy of Summary Justice and give it at least one reading before we start discussing it next month. I was confident that it would be a great choice for our conversation after reading five of Brodrick’s Father Anselm mysteries; after finishing Summary Justice today, I know you will love it.

If you need an extra boost, read the rave reviews sans spoilers for the book at The Literary Shed (UK) and at GoodReads. Then go to the library or your local bookstore or to BookFinder4u.com, pick up your copy, and start reading!

 

 

John Fairfax, Summary Justice, October!

Reminder #1: We’ll be discussing the John Fairfax novel, Summary Justice, the first two weeks of October — you have all of this month to buy and read it. In the third week of October, we’ll start in on the second Benson and de Vere courtroom drama, Blind Defence, and begin speculating about the third, Forced Confessions, that will be published in March 2020.

Why? Please read my explanation from late last month: ‘What to Read While Waiting for Strike5.’ In short, the book is written by a renowned novelist under a transparent pseudonym and has quite a few ‘striking’ similarities to the Cormoran and Robin murder mysteries.

Here is the book blurb from the publishers:

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.

When I wrote this post, the best prices for Summary Justice were $4.65 for the hardcover at ABEbooks.com and $3.65 for the paperback on eBay, and, yes, those prices include shipping and handling. Go to BookFinder4u.com and search for either US or UK bookstores to find the best price today. Or download the Audible audiobook for $14 and change. Or just go buy it at your local bricks and mortar bookstore — time’s a’wastin’!