Friday, 20 November 2015

Forgotten Book - The Jury Disagree

My Forgotten Book for today was featured, (or more precisely, its dust jacket was featured) for about a nanosecond, in Lucy Worsley's TV show about crime fiction, when she was discussing the  Wallace case. The Jury Disagree, by George Goodchild and C.E. Bechhofer Roberts, is a fictionalised version of the case, and the authors' interpretation of the facts is as interesting as the excellent jury room setting.

The twelve jurors whose deliberations about the case they have heard form the heart of the novel are described by reference to their work, rather than by name. So we have the Watch-Maker, the Actor, the Journalist, the Clerk, and so on. This might appear rather formulaic, especially when it is the man who makes watches who is fascinated by the timeline of events in the case, and the journalist likes to interpret the facts imaginatively. But the story has a real pull, and I enjoyed it.

I thought that the authors handled the adaptation of a real life case rather well. There are differences between the detailed facts of the actual and fictional crimes, but they do not detract in any way from the appeal of the book, and the ending is neatly contrived. You can never quite be sure how things are going to work out, and it's thought-provoking that the real trial resulted in a verdict that was clearly unsustainable.Whether or not you believe that William Herbert Wallace killed his wife, a question on which opinions are divided (personally, I think he was innocent,but P.D. James felt differently) I think it's pretty clear that the evidence to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt simply was not there.

Goodchild and Bechhofer Roberts made a good writing team and I'm reading another of their books, We Shot an Arrow, at present, which I shall cover in this feature in the new year. Their prose was functional, but they were good at maintaining pace and tension, and that is more than can be said of some Golden Age writers. Even if you are not interested in the Wallace case, The Jury Disagree remains an engaging read.


Mathew Paust said...

Sounds interesting. I was startled by the title, tho, as I've always considered jury to be singular. This is likely correct technically, altho I would have said either The Jurors Disagree or The Jury Disagrees. Thus endeth today's grammar whine.

Mathew Paust said...

Ah, on second look I see you're a Brit! Explains everything. ;)

Martin Edwards said...

Absolutely, Mathew. Though I think I too would have called it The Jury Disagrees!