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'Breath of Corruption' is the thirteenth book written by Caro Fraser and is the seventh book in her Caper Court series. All of the books in this series are about a group of barristers working out of the same set of chambers. It is hardly surprising that she writes about the law in her novels as she herself read law and was called to the bar in 1979.
If you are interested in the way the legal system works but also like a very good story then these novels are just the thing. From a quote from the Daily Record they are described as 'the thinking woman's chicklit!' All of the Caper Court novels are stand alone stories but there are some references to previous events which makes me think that although you don't need to have read the previous books, it probably would contribute to your overall enjoyment if you had!
In 'Breath of Corruption' there are a number of different story lines stranded together. They centre on the charismatic Leo Davies who is head of chambers. He is representing Sir Dudley Humble in what ought to be a rather straightforward case but turns out to be anything but! He ends up being embroiled with a menacing and unseemly character called Viktor Kroitor who will stop at nothing in order to prevent Leo uncovering the truth, including making threats against Leo's family. Leo also has trouble, as always, with his estranged wife Rachel. She does not approve of his somewhat alternative lifestyle and is always concerned about the effect of this on their young son Oliver. It doesn't help that she's still in love with him! She seems to have a knack of calling on Leo when he appears to be in compromising situations and always jumps to conclusions before listening to explanations! Added to this, Leo has a new girlfriend Anthea. Things could be good in this respect if it were not for Anthea's teenaged sister Lucy who develops a very unhealthy crush on Leo and behaves very badly when he rejects her advances! There's also trouble in Chambers which also add to Leo's headaches.
As you can see, there is a lot going on in this novel, but all the different strands weave together very well. All of the story lines are engrossing in their own way and I like the way the story moves seamlessly between the different ideas. As the story moves towards it's climax, all the strands come together and the whole story really works well.
All of the characters are very well developed and rounded. This is where it helps if you have read the previous novels because it feels like you already know them. Leo is my particular favourite. He is the sort of character who, if he were not in such a privileged career, might be classed a as loveable rogue! He is very affable and likeable and not very surprising for a barrister, very articulate. Rachel always seems to have trouble discussing things with him as he prides himself in being able to talk his way out of most things! However, in this novel, there are times that his gift of the gab lets him down badly. You can't help feeling a little bit sorry for him when he finds himself quite unwittingly in a situation with Lucy which, even through his eyes, looks very bad!
I also like all of the characters who reside in Chambers with Leo at Caper Court. This adds a very different dimension to the story and also provides an interesting insight into how such hallowed places operate. As this is the twenty first century though, Leo becomes involved with a small group who want to set up a 'virtual practice' using all the latest technology to communicate without ever setting foot in Chambers. Leo, in the end though, is a bit of a traditionalist, and finds that he can not turn his back on all the history and the stimulus of working in the Temple.
This novel works well and moves along at a leisurely pace which means that you can savour all that happens. That does not mean that it is not without tension, particularly where Viktor is concerned, and there are times where there is quite a bit of suspense. Essentially though this book is about a group of people who have to live and work together and at the centre of all this, there is the very strong figure of Leo, who seems to have a marked effect on everyone he meets. I think there's something for everyone in this book - romance, misunderstandings, unrequited love, menace and corruption - and at the heart of it all is the workings of the very British legal system!
The book is only 200 pages long and when I first noticed this I felt a bit cheated but it's just the right length really, and believe me, a great deal happens in those 200 pages! It is published by Matador and has a RRP of £7.99 but you will definitely get it for less than that on Amazon! I really do recommend this as an absorbing and thoughtful read.