The Barrister and the Letter of Marque
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
About the Author: Todd M. Johnson is the author of three legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction (2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.
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Estranged from his upper class father, barrister William Snopes stays clear of cases involving the rich and powerful. But when a desperate Lady Madeleine Jameson begs him to defend her cousin, Captain Harold Tuttle, Snopes is intrigued by both the petitioner and the case.
Granted a letter of marque, presumably by the king himself, Captain Tuttle set out on the noble quest of lawful piracy, seizing a hold full of tea and bringing it home to sell. But when he arrived at the dock, the letter of marque mysteriously disappeared, leaving Captain Tuttle holding the bag while his now illegal cargo is seized. Lady Madeleine, whose failing family has made one last gamble on this voyage, will lose everything if the cargo is confiscated.
As William Snopes and his colleagues investigate the case, they are thwarted at every turn, leading Snopes to believe that someone very high up in the government has an interest in keeping the truth from coming to light. The seedy underbelly of London is adept at covering crime with further crime, and to Snopes chagrin, he discovers that the beautiful Lady Madeleine has secrets of her own to keep from him. As the trial begins, Snopes is woefully underprepared with evidence to make his case, and it will take a masterful argument (and a string of good fortune) to bring him victory over the forces arrayed against him.
This historical mystery is both a fascinating character study and a finely-crafted page turner. Todd M. Johnson provides sympathetic characters, gritty intrigue, and high adventure all in one legal drama. As a longtime Regency Era devotee, I was amused to discover the real villains of the story (no spoilers here, though). I particularly enjoyed the way the narrative unfolded, and I hope that Johnson’s first venture into historical mysteries becomes a habit, perhaps even a habit that continues to involve barrister William Snopes. Recommended.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
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This book is on tour from August 2 through August 15. Check out the other stops along the tour and read more reviews of this delightful tale.
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Lovely review, Roseanne. I am so glad that you enjoyed it too. I am looking forward to the next book in the series. Best, LA