Sunday, 3 October 2010

Penguin no. 778: Famous Trials of Marshall Hall
by Edward Marjoribanks

I never escaped the feeling I was reading a book about Rumpole, albeit a Rumpole who is tall, good looking, successful and has taken silk. Like Rumpole, Marshall Hall appeared for the defence in criminal trials at the Old Bailey, he had trouble with judges, was uninterested in the law and could successfully defend clients in cases that seemed unwinnable using his own expert knowledge to find flaws in the Prosecution’s evidence.

Marshall Hall was defender in some of the most famous cases of the last century, including the Brides in the Bath case and the Camden Town Murder. Interestingly, many of these cases are also covered in detail in book 1092 , Bernard Spilsbury: His life and cases. And yet this book mentions Bernard Spilsbury only once, and I don’t recall a mention of Marshall Hall in the book on Bernard Spilsbury. They both seem to be the heroes of their own stories sharing the same stage.

This biography is written by Edward Marjoribanks who committed suicide shortly after its publication. His affection and respect for Marshall Hall are always evident, and yet he cannot be accused of hagiography. He details Marshall Hall’s flaws and his culpability in the setbacks he faced. It is a fascinating book.


  1. tassiepenguinhunter24 January 2012 at 19:27

    This is the book the motorbiker gave me and I have it. was going to send it to you but not only do you have it, you have written an interesting review on it. Will put it on the shelf for someone else.

  2. Hi Pam,

    And I hope you read it as well. It is such an interesting book: for the social commentary, for the history of these amazing cases he was involved in, because it gives you the other side of the cases featuring Bernard Spilsbury (another really interesting Penguin - no. 1092), and because you simply recognise that this must be whom Rumpole was based on. And I'll just add that Spilsbury book would be an ideal read for someone about to head to London.

  3. i gave a copy of this book to my son.
    i am sir edwards great nephew so am always pleased to know more about him
    reply to



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