In the Barrister's Chambers
I had high hopes for In the Barrister’s Chambers. It had an unusual title, a non-aristocratic hero, and an interesting premise. Unfortunately, it was mostly just more of the same.
When Lady Evelyn Darlington’s soon-to-be-fiancé is seen escaping from the bedroom of a famed courtesan moments after her murder, Evelyn is determined to find him the best legal representation possible. She feels convinced of his innocence, but the evidence is damning. So she goes to the most skilled barrister in London, Jack Harding — who happens to be her father’s former pupil. It’s been a long time since Evelyn was a schoolgirl with a crush and Jack was an eager law student.
Jack is still charming and smooth, but Evelyn has matured and can hold her own, which is how she manages to hire him at all; he doesn’t like working with beautiful women. They decide that the best defense is an offense– that is, finding the real murderer. Together they set out to prove Evelyn’s betrothed’s innocence, and find themselves falling for each other.
Jack and Evelyn have a relationship found in many other novels: the overprotective man investigating a mystery, and the eager and feisty woman who forces herself into the investigation. I winced when Jack traded his legal services for a kiss, a trite and offensive ploy that somehow only works in romance novels. Both his and Evelyn’s characters were largely one-dimensional, with little distinguishing them from countless other romance heroes and heroines (save, of course, for Jack’s lack of a title).
The overall plot, though, kept me interested. The author is a lawyer, and her knowledge of the legal profession was obvious. The murder mystery was mostly well constructed, well paced, and maintained enough of a mystery to keep me guessing, while not getting blindsided by the conclusion.
The writing wasn’t spectacular. Dialogue often seemed a bit stilted, and sometimes the prose was awkward. However, it wasn’t as bad as some others I’ve read – which is a good way to describe this book as a whole. It wasn’t the breath of fresh air I had hoped for, but neither was it actually bad. Faint praise indeed, but that’s about all I can give this book.