Calling Down The Storm by Peter Murphy
Calling Down the Storm is the story of two separate but strangely parallel lives: the life of a defendant on trial for murder, and the life of the judge who presides over his trial.
April 1971.When DI Webb and DS Raymond arrive at Harpur’s Mews in Bloomsbury in response to a 999 call, a horrific scene awaits them. Susan Lang is lying on the ground, bleeding to death. Her husband Henry is sitting nearby, holding a large, blood-stained knife. In shock, Henry claims to have no memory of the events that led to his wife’s death leaving his barrister, Ben Schroeder, little to defend a potential charge of murder.
Unknown to his strict Baptist wife Deborah who lives in the family home in Guildford, Mr Justice Conrad Rainer has a secret life in his London flat, a life as a high-stakes gambler. In his desperation for money to fund his gaming, he has already raided his own and Deborah’s resources, and now he has crossed another line – one from which there is no return.
To his horror, as the trial of Henry Lang starts, Conrad discovers a sinister connection between the trial and his gambling debts, a connection that could cause his world to unravel. And then, there’s the other terrible secret he is hiding in his flat. In a rare case in which the judge is in greater peril than the defendant on trial in his court, both Henry and Conrad have called down the storm on to their heads.
Their lives are on the line, and time is running out.
Every so often I enjoy an in-depth, plot layered novel with a legal theme. I am a huge John Grisham fan and recently finished the Mississippi trilogy by Greg Iles. However, legal thrillers based in the UK seem somewhat, rarer. So I was delighted to discover this series by Peter Murphy. Its intelligent, its cleverly written and gripping!
The novel opens in April 1971, DI Webb and DS Raymond are called to an horrific crime scene just a few minutes’ walk from the police station. A young woman lays bleeding to death on the street….. A man is sat in a doorway near the body, holding a blood dripping knife and he appears in a trance like state. The police must act fast to secure the weapon and bring emergency medical care to the woman. What started as a peaceful Wednesday afternoon, will certainly not, end as one, for those involved………..
Through DI Johnny Webb and DS Phil Raymond’s investigation we learn the victim was Susan Lang. The main suspect, her husband Henry Lang, remains in custody and his physical/mental health undetermined. Henry claims to have no memory of the attack, what happened and why he was found holding the murder weapon. Is this a clever act of amnesia? Or is Henry telling the truth? We learn that Henry and Susan were in the middle of a messy, chaotic divorce. With their two young children, Marianne and Stephanie being used as bargaining chips between the pair. They had a court appointed welfare officer dealing with their custody dispute, Wendy Cameron. Wendy is however, the main eye witness of the attack. The only one, who claims to know what truly happened! What would drive a man to viciously stab his wife? And why round the corner from a police station? Henry remains in a catatonic state and one thing is for certain, if he doesn’t come up with answers soon, he will spend the rest of his life in jail!
This novel interweaves the story of Henry Lang, main murder suspect and that of Judge Conrad Rainer. This is very cleverly done as the two men lead very different lives and come from very different backgrounds. I felt this worked incredibly well. As we are drawn into the downfalls of these men.
Judge Conrad Rainer lives a perfect middle class existence with his Baptist wife, Deborah. But Conrad has another side to his life, his wife knows nothing about. Conrad Rainer has many secrets……..
The novel shifts to 18 month previously in Conrad’s life and we learn how he often escaped to his flat for work purposes. Which enabled him to drink to excess and do as he pleases, away from the prying eyes of his wife. Conrad joins an exclusive gambling club and enjoys mixing with the affluent clientele. He meets an unusual woman of much intrigue and swiftly becomes addicted to his life in his flat, where he may be, who he really is, deep down. But is Conrad being groomed for something much bigger than his gambling debts? How much is Conrad willing to pay, for this secret life?
Remembering this is an era, when men rarely got custody of their children and had to be prepared to fight the system for simple visitation rights. This novel pulls at the emotions of a child custody battle and the feelings of the parents and children involved. When Henry’s trial begins, we see the inner workings of court cases and learn, there is more to this case, than meets the eye. Conrad learns a tough lesson, in that, where power and wealth mix, corruption surely follows………..
What will happen when the lives of the suspect, judge and a known criminal collide? Who can you trust, when everyone, has something to cover up?
A gripping legal thriller 5*