The indomitable Mortimer (Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, etc.) is back with a new cast of quixotic characters. Lucinda Purefoy (Lucy), daughter of a liberal Anglican bishop and his gin-soaked wife, graduates from university with a hankering to repay her debt to society, so she joins SCRAP (Social Carers, Reformers and Praeceptors), a volunteer organization that pairs a do-gooder with a done-badder on release from prison. The idea is to ease the ex-con's transition into society. Or, as Lucy introduces herself to her "client" Terry Keegan, "I'm your guide and philosopher." Keegan, a young man from the wrong side of Ladbroke Grove, started pinching bottles of whiskey with his schoolmate Chippy when he was 12; now he's getting out of the big house after doing three years for breaking and entering. He knows his transition would be much easier without the likes of Lucy and sets out to lose her at the first opportunity. Complications ensue, especially when Chippy (now Leonard) McGrath, who has established a false front as an environmentally concerned businessman to disguise his thriving crime organization, enters the scene. Told in a nimble he-said, she-said format, the narrative cartwheels across all that is sanctimonious about prison reform for a delectable undoing of do-gooders. (Mar. 27) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Fate throws together a cinematically mismatched pair; Cupid deftly aims his arrows; cute fun ensues. Taking a breather from legal thrillers (Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, 2004, etc.), Mortimer serves up a sweet love story. Twentysomething Lucy is bored. Her dad's a namby-pamby Anglican bishop who preaches craven Christianity Lite, her mom's a respectable lush, her boyfriend's less than thrilling. She burns for a challenge. So Lucy volunteers for SCRAP, a sodality of Social Careers, Reformers and Praeceptors that enlists wide-eyed women to serve as guides, philosophers and friends to ex-cons fresh from the pokey. SCRAP is filled with daft and cheery liberals convinced that even society's throat-slitters are merely misunderstood. Lucy is initially not so sanguine about her first assignment, Terry. More Artful Dodger than Jack the Ripper, he's just a delinquent, if not juvenile. But Terry is easy on the eyes, and his prison reading habits (Dostoevsky and sundry Great Books) hint at hidden depths. Soon enough, his surliness fades in the face of Lucy's sunshine, and she's smitten by his not-so-rough-trade charm. Desperate to bond by penetrating the mysteries of his criminal mind, she asks, "Why do you steal?" When Terry replies, "Excitement," well, it's no more Ms. Nice Girl. Lucy begins a mini-career as a light-fingered burglar. His tentative macho threatened by her prowess, panicked Terry decides it's his turn to reform her. Class-struggle humor, nifty slang and mild social commentary bolster the slight plot, as do nicely rendered tours both of London's seedy demimonde and pricier real-estate plots. A witty Brit bagatelle and a romantic comedy tailor-made for the multiplex.