Life & Culture

The Trial book review: Is there anything Rob Rinder can't do?

A sparely written and enjoyable page-turner from the barrister turned TV personality


Rob Rinder is a well-known and liked TV personality, a take-no-prisoners pantomime and Strictly Come Dancing performer, a breakfast show presenter and a JC columnist. He is also, for many people, the calm and knowledgeable voice speaking the unspeakable about the Holocaust, as demonstrated in two successful documentaries on BBC. He was awarded an MBE for his services to Holocaust education.

But he is perhaps best-known for his long-running daytime TV show Judge Rinder, which developed from his proper career as a barrister. Now, in a bid to show the fiction-reading public the inner workings of the courts of law, Rinder has written the first of two novels featuring a lightly Jewish barrister, Adam Green, as his alter ego. I say “lightly Jewish”, because in general, the characters would have worked even if Rinder had set the whole Jewish bit aside. There is, however, a series of comedy phone calls throughout the book, in which Green’s Awful Jewish Mother attempts to inflict various awful-sounding Jewish women on her son. Such conversations seemed to resonate with tropes rooted in the community of the 1950s or 1960s.

Rinder’s user-friendly descriptions of how courts and the Bar work, based on his years of experience as a barrister, were very pleasing. His set-up was inviting. Adam is a much put-upon barrister-in-training doing his year of pupillage. That’s a way for more senior lawyers in barrister chambers to pick up the most hard-working and promising young men and women.

Each student barrister has a “pupil-master”, who is intended to be a mentor. Rinder starts his novel with a flourish: a policeman who is a national hero and veteran crime-catcher dies a very public death at the Old Bailey. Through somewhat unlikely circumstances, Adam’s pupil-master becomes the defence lawyer for the man accused of murdering the policeman. And, as with Ruth and Naomi, where the pupil-master goes, there goes the pupil — and thus Adam finds himself front and centre in court as part of the hottest ticket in town, a trial that has gripped the British public.

We are familiar with scenarios where the senior lawyer is a bit of a pompous idiot and the young and ambitious lawyer solves the mystery. Rinder does not shy away from this, though he makes Adam such a nerd that it is more of a mystery how he blunders his way to the solution.

Nevertheless, he does, and though I can’t quite say that good ultimately triumphs over evil, Adam gets his answers, though some of them are… improbable, to say the least.

When I spoke to Rinder last autumn, he joked that calling his book The Trial might lead to confusion with Franz Kafka’s identically named novel. I can assure Kafka — even though he’s somewhat dead — that his reputation will not suffer in this regard. Just the same, Rinder has produced a sparely written and enjoyable page-turner, which surely begs the question: is there anything at all that Rob Rinder can’t do?

The Trial
By Rob Rinder
Century, £20

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