Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Rumpole and the Primrose Path

Rumpole and the Primrose Path

4.7 4
by John Mortimer

See All Formats & Editions

Rumpole and the Primrose Path - six hilarious crime capers starring John Mortimer's iconic character 'Rumpole, like Jeeves and Sherlock Holmes, is immortal' P. D James, Mail on Sunday 'I thank heaven for small mercies. The first of these is Rumpole' Clive James, Observer Rumpole was last seen in his hospital bed after his sudden collapse in court. Now our hero


Rumpole and the Primrose Path - six hilarious crime capers starring John Mortimer's iconic character 'Rumpole, like Jeeves and Sherlock Holmes, is immortal' P. D James, Mail on Sunday 'I thank heaven for small mercies. The first of these is Rumpole' Clive James, Observer Rumpole was last seen in his hospital bed after his sudden collapse in court. Now our hero finds himself in the Primrose Path nursing home - or a hospice as he persists in describing it. Things aren't looking good for Rumpole - until suddenly he begins to sense there's something wrong with the place, and all his intelligence and formidable insight into human behaviour come to the fore again. And once he has solved the mystery of the Primrose Path nursing home, Rumpole finds the briefs fly thick and fast again. This delightful collection of six Rumpole stories shows the legendary advocate on top form. Readers of Sherlock Holmes, P.D. James and P.G. Wodehouse will love this book. Sir John Mortimer was a barrister, playwright and novelist. His fictional political trilogy of Paradise Postponed, Titmuss Regained and The Sound of Trumpets has recently been republished in Penguin Classics, together with Clinging to the Wreckage and his play A Voyage round My Father. His most famous creation was the barrister Horace Rumpole, who featured in four novels and around eighty short stories. His books in Penguin include: The Anti-social Behaviour of Horace Rumpole; The Collected Stories of Rumpole; The First Rumpole Omnibus; Rumpole and the Angel of Death; Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders; Rumpole and the Primrose Path; Rumpole and the Reign of Terror; Rumpole and the Younger Generation; Rumpole at Christmas; Rumpole Rests His Case; The Second Rumpole Omnibus; Forever Rumpole; In Other Words; Quite Honestly and Summer's Lease.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Whether you're a longtime fan of the series (either the previous 12 books or the popular PBS television series Rumpole of the Bailey) or seeking an introduction to John Mortimer's disheveled yet surprisingly perceptive Old Bailey hack, the verdict is clear: Rumpole and the Primrose Path is a winner! Six stories grace this diverting collection, including the title yarn, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Short Story. Effects of the heart attack that laid Rumpole low in Rumpole Rests His Case still linger as the wily old barrister plots his escape from the Primrose Path convalescent home. But a cry for help from a favorite nurse accused of deadly wrongdoing offers Rumpole his chance to return to work -- and foils his colleagues' plan to "celebrate his life" before he's finished with it. Soon a gentlemanly offer (inspired by a New Year's resolution his wife insisted he undertake) gives Rumpole a new perspective on crime in the streets. Then, though grumbling about the scarcity of cases requiring his attention, Rumpole rebalances the scales of justice, reexamines the right to privacy, locates a vanishing juror, and redeems a tarnished reputation. John Mortimer's cleverly crafted plots and irreverent observations prove Rumpole is back in top form when it comes to irritating wrongheaded judges and turning the tables on wrongdoers. Sue Stone
The Washington Post
I don't know exactly what it is that makes these books so satisfying; maybe it's that Rumpole feels dismissed and under-appreciated at every turn, that his own sense of self-esteem is both so sturdy and so fragile that he so loves to tell his stories even though the attention of his listeners falters. Maybe it's that he so enjoys his office, with all its petty gossip and foiled affairs. Or maybe it's because he loves his own work with a petulant, impatient love, that he knows he's crack at what he does -- defending low-life crooks -- whether the larger world appreciates him or not. — Carolyn See
The New York Times
… Mortimer is delightfully playful throughout. He is instructive, too. British judges are much more active than American judges in discussing evidence with juries, to the dismay of many litigants. Mortimer, himself a former barrister, portrays most of the judges Rumpole meets as inattentive, arrogant and biased, and these depictions smell sweetly of payback. — Adam Liptak
Publishers Weekly
In Rumpole's last outing, Rumpole Rests His Case (2002), Mortimer's beloved barrister suffered a near-fatal heart attack, but as shown in this delicious new story collection, Rumpole still has plenty of life left, despite the preparations some of his blithely insensitive colleagues in chambers make for his imminent demise. In the ingenious title tale, which has been nominated for an Edgar, Rumpole is recuperating in the Primrose Path Home, until the mysterious death of an elderly fellow patient prompts him to slip back to London, where he soon figures out that there's something fishy afoot at his former rest home. The five other entries offer puzzles nearly as clever, though in one story, in which a juror turns out to know someone connected to a murder case, the apparent lack of a voir dire process for screening jurors may strike some readers as odd. As always, however, it is the character of Rumpole and his supporting cast, headed by wife Hilda ("She Who Must Be Obeyed"), that provides such pleasure, along with a perfectly crafted style that owes much to P.G. Wodehouse. If at times the bumbling Rumpole, like Bertie Wooster, must suffer one comic humiliation after another, let it not be forgot that Rumpole, unlike Bertie, is a competent professional who operates in a recognizably real and often nasty contemporary world. May he, as his wife so confidently assumes over their anniversary dinner in the uplifting final story, "Rumpole Redeemed," be back for more legal escapades next year. (Dec. 1) Forecast: Rumpole's latest memoir volume is The Summer of a Dormouse (2001), which reflects some of the same concerns about aging. As usual for Mortimer, this collection will appeal as much to mainstream readers as mystery fans. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Like Sherlock Holmes, Horace Rumpole has returned from the grave (Rumpole Rests His Case, 2002), commencing with his no-nonsense escape from the dubious convalescent home in which he's been immured. Times have changed, he finds on his return to number 4 Equity Court. Samuel Ballard, QC, the Head of Chambers, has hired Luci Gribble as Director of Marketing and Administration, and the hard-bitten Luci has responded by falling for Soapy Sam. And his fling with celebrity when he defends lawyer-bashing police commander Bob Durden on a charge of murder-for-hire gives Rumpole a higher profile and even a few briefs of his own. Mostly, though, it's business as usual as Rumpole defends not murder cases-his defense of a religious zealot accused of strangling a lap dancer is the least interesting of these half-dozen tales-but accusations of pickpocketing, invasion of privacy, and burglary-cum-violation of the bathroom. Mortimer's seen no reason to expand his ritualistic view of the short mystery in which the accusers invariably turn out to be guiltier than the accused. Fortunately, the trimmings, from Claude Erskine-Brown's frenzy to confess the most minor indiscretions to his wife the judge to Soapy Sam's avowed desire to cover Luci with custard, are as savory as ever. Not by a long shot Rumpole's finest hour, but his many fans will share his wife's pleasure in the fact that he's come back at all.
From the Publisher
RumpoleÆs wit has not deserted him... Mortimer is in high form here. (The New Yorker)

For things most truly themselves, there should be a special place of honor... We should remember to be thankful for Rumpole. (The Washington Post)

Mortimer is the master of a crisp, witty, eminently readable prose style. (Los Angeles Times)

Product Details

Penguin UK
Publication date:

Read an Excerpt

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page




Rumpole and the Primrose Path

Rumpole and the New Year’s Resolutions

Rumpole and the Scales of Justice

Rumpole and the Right to Privacy

Rumpole and the Vanishing Juror

Rumpole Redeemed





John Mortimer is the author of eleven other Rumpole books, many of which formed the basis for the PBS-TV series Rumpole of the Bailey. His work also includes many novels and plays and three volumes of autobiography. A former barrister at the Old Bailey, London’s central criminal court, Mortimer, who was knighted in 1998, lives in Oxfordshire, England.



Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 10 Alcom Avenue, Toronto,

Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen’s Green,

Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd)

Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,

Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd)

Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre,

Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India

Penguin Group (NZ), cnr Airborne and Rosedale Roads,

Albany, Auckland, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd)

Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue,

Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa


Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England


First published in the Great Britain by Penguin Books Ltd 2002
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin,
a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2003
Published in Penguin Books 2004



Copyright © Advanpress Ltd, 2002

All rights reserved



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.



Mortimer, John Clifford

Rumpole and the primrose path / John Mortimer. p. cm.

eISBN : 978-1-101-00692-4

1. Rumpole, Horace (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Detective and mystery stories, English. 3. London (England)—Fiction. 4. Legal stories, English. I. Title. PR6025.O7552R’.914—dc21 2003053527


Set in Plantin



The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

For Kathy Lette

‘Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads’


Shakespeare, Hamlet,

Act I, Scene 3




‘I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.’


Shakespeare, Macbeth,

Act 2, Scene 3

Rumpole and the Primrose Path

The regular meeting of the barristers who inhabit my old Chambers in Equity Court took place, one afternoon, in an atmosphere of particular solemnity. Among those present was a character entirely new to them, a certain Luci Gribble, whom our leader, in a momentary ambition to reach the status of an ‘entrepreneur’, had taken on as Director of Marketing and Administration.

Mizz Liz Probert, observing the scene, later described Luci (why she had taken to this preposterous spelling of the name of Wordsworth’s great love was clear to nobody) as in her thirties, with a ‘short bob’, referring to hair which was not necessarily as blonde as it seemed, a thin nose, slightly hooded eyes and a determined chin. She wore a black trouser suit and bracelets clinked at her wrists. The meeting was apparently interrupted from time to time, as she gave swift instructions to the mobile phone she kept in her jacket pocket. She also wore high-heeled black boots which Liz Probert priced at not far short of three hundred pounds.

‘I’m vitally concerned with the profile of Equity Court.’ Luci had a slight northern accent and a way, Liz noticed, of raising her voice at the end of her sentence, so every statement sounded like a question. ‘I take it that it’s in the parameters of my job description to include the field of public relations and the all-important question of the company’s - that is to say’ (here Liz swears that Luci corrected herself reluctantly) ‘the Chambers’ image. Correct, Chair?’

This was an undoubted question, but it seemed to be addressed to an article offurniture, one of that old dining-room set, now much mended and occasionally wobbly, which had been bequeathed to Equity Court in the will of C. H. Wystan, my wife Hilda’s father and once Head of our Chambers. However, Soapy Sam Ballard, as ourpresent Head and so chairman of the meeting, appeared to follow the new arrival’s drift.

‘Of course that’s your job, Luci.’ Soapy Sam was on Christian-name terms with the woman who called him Chair. ‘To improve our image. That’s why we hired you. After all, we don’t want to be described as a group of old fuddy-duddies, do we?’ Chair, who might be thought by some to fit the description perfectly, smiled round at the meeting.

‘It’s not so much the fuddy-duddy label that concerns me at the moment, although I shall be including that in a future presentation. It’s the heartless thing that worries me.’

‘Heartless?’ Ballard was puzzled.

‘The public image of barristers,’ Luci told the meeting, ‘equals money-grabbing fat cats, insincere defenders of clients who are obviously guilty, chauvinists and outdated wig-wearing shysters.’

‘Did you say “shysters”?’ Claude Erskine-Brown, usually mild mannered, ever timid in Court, easily doused by a robust opponent or an impatient Judge, rose in his seat (once again this is the evidence of Liz Probert) and uttered a furious protest. ‘Linsist you withdraw that word “shyster”.’

‘No need for that, Erskine-Brown.’ Ballard was being gently judicial. ‘Luci is merely talking us through the public perception.’

‘You put it, Chair, succinctly and to the point.’ Once again, Luci was grateful to the furniture.

‘Oh, well. If it’s only the public perception.’ Erskine-Brown sank back in his seat, apparently mollified.

‘What we have to demonstrate is that barristers have outsize hearts. There is no section of the community, and we can prove this by statistics, which cares more deeply, gives more liberally to charity, signs more letters to The Times, and shows its concern for the public good by pointing out more frequent defects in the railway system, than the old-fashioned, tried-and-trusted British barrister.’

‘You can prove anything by statistics.’ Erskine-Brown was still out, in a small way, to cause trouble.

‘Exactly so.’ Luci seemed unexpectedly delighted. ‘So we have chosen our statistics with great care, and we shall use them to the best possible advantage. But I’m not talking statistics here. I’m talking of the situation, sad as I’m sure we all agree it may be, which gives us the opportunity to show that we do care.’ Luci paused and seemed, for a moment, moved with deep emotion. ‘So much so that we should all join in a very public display of heartfelt thanks.’

‘Heartfelt thanks for what?’ Erskine-Brown was mystified. ‘Surely not our legal-aid fees?’

At this point, Luci produced copies of a statement she invited Erskine-Brown to circulate. When Liz Probert got it, she found that it read:


We wish to give heartfelt thanks for the life of one of our number. An ordinary, workaday barrister. An old warhorse. One who didn’t profess to legal brilliance, but one who cared deeply and whom we loved as a fellow member of number 4 Equity Court.


‘By this act we shall show that barristers have hearts,’ Luci summed up the situation.

‘By what act is that, exactly?’ Erskine-Brown was still far from clear.

‘The Memorial Service. In the Temple Church for the late Horace Rumpole, barrister at law. Chair, I’m sure we can rely on you for a few remarks, giving thanks for a life of quiet and devoted service.’

It later emerged that at this stage of the Chambers meeting Liz Probert, undoubtedly the most sensible member of the gathering, suggested that a discussion of a Memorial Service was a little premature in view of the fact that there had as yet been no announcement of Rumpole’s death. Erskine-Brown told her that he had spoken to She Who Must Be Obeyed, who was, he said, ‘putting a brave face on it’, but admitted that I had been removed from the hospital to which I had been rushed after a dramatic failure in the ticker department, brought about by an unusually brutal encounter with Judge Ballingham, to the Primrose Path Home in Sussex, and would not be back in Chambers for a very long time indeed. In that case, Liz suggested, all talk of a Memorial Service might be postponed indefinitely.

‘Put our programme on hold?’ Luci was clearly disappointed. ‘It’d be a pity not to continue with the planning stage. Naturally, Mrs Rumpole’s hoping for the best, but let’s face it, at his age Rumpole’s actuarial chances of survival are approximate to a negative-risk situation -’

‘And one knows, doesn’t one,’ Erskine-Brown asked, ‘what places like the Primrose Path are like? They call themselves “Homes”, but the reality is they are -’

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
RumpoleÆs wit has not deserted him... Mortimer is in high form here. (The New Yorker)

For things most truly themselves, there should be a special place of honor... We should remember to be thankful for Rumpole. (The Washington Post)

Mortimer is the master of a crisp, witty, eminently readable prose style. (Los Angeles Times)

Meet the Author

JOHN MORTIMER is a novelist, playwright and former practising barrister. Among his many publications are several volumes of Rumpole stories and a trilogy of political novels (PARADISE POSTPONED, TITMUSS REGAINED and THE SOUND OF TRUMPETS) featuring Leslie Titmuss - a character as brilliant as Rumpole. John Mortimer received a knighthood for his services to the arts in 1998.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Rumpole and the Primrose Path 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Barrister Horace Rumpole suffered a near-fatal heart attack (see RUMPOLE RESTS HIS CASE) and convalescences in the Primrose Path Home while his colleagues mount a death watch and a competition to replace him. Bored, cranky, at war with much of the staff, and feeling like a prisoner with a life sentence, Rumpole learns that another patient fellow patient died under strange circumstances. Refusing to rest at the rest home, Rumpole escapes confinement and is back on the case trying to learn what happened to his rest home mate.

That is the first of five cleverly designed stories and one other well written but flawed tale that brilliantly return Rumpole back in London solving cases, obeying his wife Hilda, and entertaining his myriad of fans while he achieves all that. John Mortimer scores big time with this superb collection that ends with a toast the barrister¿s fans will join Hilda in hoping that Horace has more escapades next year.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
swmbo More than 1 year ago
As usual John Mortimer's satirical view of the English courts are thoroughly amusing and well written. I find his books to be easy reading and a great way to unwind.