Book Review: The Trial by Rob Rinder

When NetGalley offered me an ARC of Rob (Judge) Rinder’s debut novel, I jumped at the chance! Whilst I’d been aware of Judge Rinder on TV, I’d never watched an episode of his eponymous show (despite knowing someone who appeared in one #randomfact) – but really liked him on Strictly. I’ve also enjoyed his partnership with Susanna Reid as a guest presenter on Good Morning Britain (more of Susanna shortly!) and his eloquent campaigning on Twitter – so I had high expectations of the book.

For anyone not just tempted by the author – here’s the blurb:

“An unputdownable murder mystery by Britain’s best-loved criminal barrister Rob Rinder.
When hero policeman Grant Cliveden dies from a poisoning in the Old Bailey, it threatens to shake the country to its core.
The evidence points to one man. Jimmy Knight has been convicted of multiple offences before and defending him will be no easy task. Not least because this is trainee barrister Adam Green’s first case.
But it will quickly become clear that Jimmy Knight is not the only person in Cliveden’s past with an axe to grind.
The only thing that’s certain is that this is a trial which will push Adam – and the justice system itself – to the limit . . .”

The book is told from Adam Green’s point of view – he’s a Jewish trainee barrister – so the author is sticking with what he knows. Adam is a pupil at a London chambers – and is in competition with another pupil to be taken on as a permanent barrister – so there is a lot at stake with each case over and above how the client gets on.

The setting reminded me a lot of the BBC TV drama ‘Silks’ – and this is not a bad thing, as I loved the programme and was gutted when it was cancelled a decade ago. (Admittedly my love was potentially heightened because Rupert Penry-Jones is on my laminated list!) I’m guessing as both the TV series and this book are written by people with experience of the legal profession, every chambers has an aggressive Head Clerk who basically rules the roost, competitive pupils (with a love / hate relationship), slightly lazy but well connected senior barristers – and lots of ‘marketing’ (excessive drinking and copping off out of hours!)

Having had mostly dull boring straightforward cases – suddenly Adam finds himself in the midst of a murder trial and a financial fraud trial. Both of these are working for his pupil master Jonathan who is not a nice man! He might be a KC (I’m guessing there was a quick ‘find and replace’ QC with KC during the drafting process!) but he is lazy, rude, misogynistic, having multiple affairs and just a total slimeball. He also doesn’t seem bothered with elements of the case against their client, Jimmy Knight, who has been charged with the murder of a high flying policeman – Grant Cliveden.

Adam then does some digging of his own accord – and in his own limited time – into PC Cliveden and Jimmy Knight. The book therefore has a dual pronged story of the legal case itself – and Adam trying to prove what really happened. At the same time the chapters are interspersed with phonecalls between Adam and his mother. She’s busy letting herself into his flat to clean and provide homecooked food – and ‘suggest’ nice Jewish girls for him to marry! I really enjoyed this insight into Adam’s family, and the history between him and his parents is revealed as the book progresses.

It’s very clever and intricate (and I didn’t spot any inconsistencies, and I’m super anal about such stuff!) and has lots of references to current life – I particularly liked the reference to Susannah Reid being attractive, when I know she’s Rob’s Ibiza holidaying and celebrity Gogglebox partner!!

Overall it’s a great combination of legal drama / murder mystery / domestic story – all wrapped up together – and you were rooting for Adam throughout. A fantastic debut novel, and I’d really like to revisit Adam Green in books to come!

A huge thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and Judge Rob Rinder himself for this excellent book. It’s out in June 2023 and I would highly suggest you pre order it now.

Book Review: Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang

I had seen ‘Yellowface’ being raved about – so was delighted to be given an ARC on NetGalley. Here’s the blurb:

Athena Liu is a literary darling and June Hayward is literally nobody.
White lies
When Athena dies in a freak accident, June steals her unpublished manuscript and publishes it as her own under the ambiguous name Juniper Song.
Dark humour
But as evidence threatens June’s stolen success, she will discover exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
Deadly consequences…
What happens next is entirely everyone else’s fault.”

The book is told from June Hayward’s point of view – who rebrands herself under the pen name Juniper Song to be more ethnically ambiguous – and she is clearly an unreliable narrator, and not very likeable. In fact, I’m not sure any of the characters are pleasant at all.

June’s college ‘frenemy’ and far more successful writer, Athena, dies right in front of June – who then steals Athena’s most recent work that Athena says no one has yet seen. June / Juniper passes it off as her own and it’s published to great success. However then things start to unravel for June.

It’s a seemingly intense commentary on the publishing industry, social media, racism and unconscious bias, cancel culture and lots more.

This has loads of 5 star reviews on NetGalley – so clearly people are loving it – but it just didn’t hit the mark for me, but I suspect that’s more my problem than anyone else’s! I’m sure it will hit all of the best sellers lists when it’s released later this week.

Book Review: Call Time by Steve Jones

I was intrigued by the premise of Sliding Doors meets High Fidelity – and also keen to read something by Steve Jones who has been on my radar since the 90s. It was between downloading the book from NetGalley and reading it that I found out Steve Jones used to go out with The One Show presenter Alex Jones (not related, that would be weird / illegal) and poached an Angelina Jolie interview off her back in the day #randomfact. It also made me realise how few books I read written by blokes! Anyway – back to the book – here’s the full blurb:

Pre-order this enthralling debut novel from Channel 4 F1 presenter Steve Jones – it’s Sliding Doors meets High Fidelity.
Bob Bloomfield is, in the words of his best friend’s wife, a ‘selfish, arrogant a*sehole’, who hasn’t spent a great deal of time making friends in his 49 years on earth.But what if he could change? What if Bob could stop the very thing that has made him the man he is, the death of his younger brother, Tom in 1986. If he could save Tom, could he save himself?. . . And what if all it took was a phone call – to his childhood self?”

The book starts with Bob – a single bloke, exactly the same age as me, with a successful career but possibly less successful private life – living between his bachelor pad and a fancy office. He heads off to a colleague’s fancy dress party – and when getting the outfit for this party comes across a retro mobile – and this is the key to the phonecalls to the past.

What happens next is all pretty far fetched (but time travelling stories don’t tend to be ‘real life’!!) but makes you question if you could make a phonecall back in time to change something – what effects could that have on how other things, other people’s lives etc turn out?

There are then a few different entwined iterations of the story encompassing Bob / Robert and his family and friends (and someone who is a friend of sorts in one timeline and family in another!)

Whilst the original Bob is not very likeable, you definitely find yourself rooting for him as the book progresses.

It’s very clever and enjoyable. Overall a fun, escapist read.

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGallet for my ARC – it came out this week on 11 May 2023.