A Case of Mice and Murder

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Pub Date 18 Jul 2024 | Archive Date 18 Jul 2024

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The Inner Temple: a warren of shaded courtyards and ancient buildings forming the hidden heart of London’s legal world. A place where tradition is everything, and murder belongs only in the casebooks. Until now…

When barrister Gabriel Ward steps out of his rooms on a sunny May morning in 1901, his mind is so full of his latest case – the disputed authorship of bestselling children’s book Millie the Temple Church Mouse – that he scarcely registers the body of the Lord Chief Justice of England on his doorstep.

But even he cannot fail to notice the judge’s dusty bare feet, in shocking contrast to his flawless evening dress, nor the silver carving knife sticking out of his chest.

The police can enter the Temple only by consent, so who better to investigate this tragic breach of law and order than a man who prizes both above all things? But murder doesn’t answer to logic or reasoned argument, and Gabriel soon discovers that the Temple’s heavy oak doors are hiding more surprising secrets than he’d ever imagined.

The first in a brand-new series introducing a wonderfully eccentric sleuth, perfect for fans of S.J. Bennett and Richard Coles.

The Inner Temple: a warren of shaded courtyards and ancient buildings forming the hidden heart of London’s legal world. A place where tradition is everything, and murder belongs only in the...

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ISBN 9781526668738
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Featured Reviews

After reading Sally Smith’s A Case of Mice and Murder, I found out that it’s the first in a brand-new series. I confess that I did a quiet jiggle of delight. I have not seen such a skilfully written debut novel for quite some time. Yes, it’s a murder mystery – a whodunnit, if you will – but I realised half-way through that I was less concerned about finding the perpetrator than usual; and much more interested in Sir Gabriel Ward’s growing experience of the world and its inhabitants outside London’s Inns of Court.

Sir Gabriel lives in 4 King’s Bench Walk and oscillates between his rooms and his chambers in Inner Temple, with meals in the Temple’s adjacent Dining Hall. After the two-minute walk from his rooms to his chambers on the morning of 21st May 1901, he discovers a body blocking the chambers’ doorway. Ward recognises the body as that of the Lord Chief Justice but is puzzled to see that the Chief is barefoot. Because the Inner Temple is legally a liberty, it is outside the control of the City of London and their police force, nor is it subject to the Metropolitan Police. Because of that, Ward is instructed by the Temple’s Treasurer (the Temple’s leader, elected annually by the benchers, i.e. barristers and judges based in the temple) to investigate the murder.

Ward is an unworldly character at the start of the book, unmarried and living for his work, although he does read detective novels such as the new Sherlock Holmes stories by Conan Doyle. Presumably, he will also have read RA Freeman’s Dr Thorndyke novels, published between 1905 and 1942, and may have been amused by the fact that the fictitious Thorndyke lived next door in 5A King’s Bench Walk. However, although he may not be familiar with the outside world, Ward is very sharp and accustomed to assessing people and their tales. He knows when someone is lying.

Sally Smith is a retired KC who, like Ward, has spent her whole working life in Inner Temple. She has a lifetime’s experience of the law but never allows any technical legal arguments to dominate the story. Yes, there is mention of how legal precedents are important; and Herbert Moore, Ward’s client in the case of Cadamy v Moore, is unnerved by Ward’s ability to argue the points in favour of Miss Cadamy as strongly as he can those in Moore’s favour.

Talking of Cadamy v Moore, the premise is that Herbert Moore, a publisher, found the manuscript of a child’s story, Millie the Temple Church Mouse by Miss Harriet Cadamy, abandoned on his doorstep. His daughter loved it and Moore decided to publish it. It was a best-seller – the Harry Potter of 1901, if you like! He also agreed to merchandising and to overseas editions. Although he had tried to find the author, he had failed. However, Miss Susan Hatchings has announced that she is the author and she is unhappy about Moore’s commercial exploitation of Millie. Ms Smith gives us enough exposition of the legal arguments to pique our interest but keeps it simple: Moore has no signed contract with Hatchings that restricts his ability to exploit Millie as he sees fit; and he has signed all contracts with others as Miss Cadamy, but Miss Cadamy doesn’t exist.

The combination of the murder investigation; the tension over Millie the mouse; the secrets that Ward uncovers; and Ward’s growing compassion for more vulnerable people such as the Temple staff and homeless vagrants and his interest in other people such as Constable Wright, make this an engrossing read. It is superb and I can’t wait for the next in the series.

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