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Mystery Monday – According to the Evidence

According to the Evidence by Henry Cecil

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

“It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer,” goes the formulation by the English jurist William Blackstone. But in this 1954 novel, due to a lack of evidence a serial killer is acquitted, and goes on to kill not one but two women. An ex-commando, Alec Morland, takes the law into own hands and dispatches the serial killer over the edge of a cliff.

The evidence tying Morland to the murder is tenuous, but Morland’s fiancé Jill worries that suspicion will never be dispelled and thus blight their family life. She asks con man turned stockbroker Ambrose Low to figure out a way to get Morland to trial and get him acquitted. Low turns to witness tampering (interfering, in British English), which blows up in his face.

Henry Cecil was a barrister and high court judge himself so his views on evidence, judges, juries, lawyers, and clients are worth listening to. His legal fiction from the Fifites and Sixties is still in print, because his wit, style, intelligence, and deft plotting still provide much interest and sheer reading pleasure. The writing is lucid, simplified for the lay reader, but we never feel condescended to.

While this is not a typical whodunit, I still recommend it to mystery fans. Cecil’s humor is very English, wise, and humane. He uses Wodehousian characters such a dim-witted colonel to delightful effect, putting them in situations designed to exploit all comic potential.






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