Brogan McLane has been ‘Called’ to the Bar in the Scottish Supreme Court. Now a well established Advocate, he has ruffled more than a few feathers over the years. He is renowned for his passionate defence of his clients and his work in the field of International child abduction law. Despite his start on the wrong side of the tracks, his record within Parliament House and throughout his career is unblemished. Until now.
When High Court Judge Lord Aldounhill is found in his home, his carotid artery severed, it falls to Detective Chief Inspector Terry Imrie to investigate. Being a Judge, there are no end of suspects, people convicted in the Judge’s court, who could possibly bear a grudge against him. But enough to kill him? But when facts are presented, there is one man whose name stands out amongst them all. A man who has had a very public disagreement with the Judge which brought embarrassment upon the Judge. A man who has been alleged to have made threats against his life. Brogan McLane.
It is a very difficult case for Imrie. Instinct tells him that McLane is innocent. That even a man with his past would not risk everything in the name of revenge. But the murder weapon is missing and a boot print has been found at the scene, a print which seemingly fits Brogan perfectly. And the longer Imrie investigates, the more he finds that Lord Aldounhill’s private life was a very complicated and on occasion dark place to be.
Backed by his ‘brothers’ of the Calton Bar, Brogan must work hard to prove his innocence before he is convicted of a crime he did not commit. But each time they find what seems to be irrefutable proof of his innocence, someone finds an explanation to counter it. Someone who seems determined that Brogan must be convicted, no matter what.
The Trial is the first full length novel in the Parliament House series of books featuring Advocate Brogan McLane. Brogan is a man with a murky past. Growing up in the East End of Glasgow, his is almost a rags to riches story as he has gone from Card Dealer in criminal circles to the prestigious job in the ‘Faculty of Advocates’ in Parliament House. He has never lost touch with his roots and, as we learn in the short prequel, The Cycle, he owes that community his career.
This is a really interesting novel, looking at the Scottish Legal system from the other side, that of Solicitors and Advocates, rather than the police. There is still a strong element of police investigation in this, but unlike most crime novels, it is not the dominating factor. In fact there is as much investigation from Brogan’s ‘band of brothers’, his criminal friends from the old Calton Bar, as there is from DCI Imrie. I have to admit that at first this threw me. I (thanfully) know little enough about the English Legal system never having had to call upon it myself, and what little I know of the law is gleaned from American TV shows like Law and Order, and many, many books, none of which have been heavy in the Scottish traditions I have to say. That said, once I started to get my head around the structure, doing my mental jiggery to equate Advocates to Barristers and District Attorneys, I found it easy to settle into. You can certainly tell all the years of experience that the author has in this world from the way he has written and described the confines of Parliament House. I hope to never learn how accurate he is…
The story is intriguing. Lord Aldounhill has, how shall I put it, perhaps what would be seen as surprising taste to those who think they know him. He also has some very disturbing traits, one of which ultimately leads to his untimely demise. However, from very early on in the novel it is clear that someone is out to frame Brogan for this murder and to a certain point we know who is complicit in this deception if not who is ultimately responsible. This makes things interesting for the reader as we can see every time this person steps in to impact the thought processes. And it seems that many of Brogan’s colleagues are quick to accept the worst of him so I was intrigued as to just why this could be. There was little in the prequels to indicate why they may dislike him so much. That said, there were several characters who held a very healthy respect for him, including Imrie and his brother’s back at the Calton, and none were willing to just accept what they were being told.
Brogan McLane is an unusual character. We learn in one of the prequels that he is a man not necessarily drawn to violence unlike his brethren at the bar, but that he understands the power of mercy and justice. Although you may not have read the prequels, and I read this book first in truth, it still shines through in the narrative. He is a man I could like quite easily, always true to himself and very much in love with his wife, conscious of what the impending trial was doing to her. We do get a little of his history in this book which helps the reader understand him better. This also causes a problem as this book was also written before the prequels and this leads to a little conflict in the plot lines which niggled me a little. That said, if reading this as a standalone, which you most certainly can, then it should cause the reader no issues.
It is certainly a twisting story and with each piece of evidence being duly refuted and turned back against Brogan, you wonder just how it can be that he will ever be found innocent. And when he is forced to make his own summation speech and instructs the jury that he will accept nothing less than a unanimous verdict of innocence, you have to wonder if he has just sealed his own fate. Will Imrie and Brogan’s associates be able to find the evidence needed to prove him innocent or will it be too late. Well… that’s for you to find out.
The pacing in this was good, and once I learned to understand the legalese a little better I found that I was gripped by the story which pulled me along at a good pace. I’m certainly intrigued to know what happens to our hero next.
A very fine 4 stars.
‘The Trial‘ is available to buy at the following links. My thanks to the Author for the ARC of this book.