Scottish Daily Mail



- Patricia Nicol

ON AND off our screens, we have been hooked by legal battles. In New York, there’s the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell and Prince Andrew’s bid to get Virginia Giuffre’s claims against him dismissed.

Over here, the UK court’s most expensive-ever divorce settlement for Princess Haya, ex-wife of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed.

Why does the public enjoy a court drama so much? The costumes? The wigs? The hierarchie­s? Or, the conclusive­ness of it all?

Charles Dickens knew the power of a legal plot to drive a gripping drama. One of his most satisfying classics Bleak House revolves around the long-running case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce. One of U.S. fiction’s bestloved classics, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbir­d, has Southern lawyer Atticus Finch as its adult hero. A recent favourite legal thriller is the often amusingly skewering The Appeal by Janice Hallett, one of last year’s biggest debuts.

A defence QC, preparing an appeal, asks trainees Charlotte and Femi to review materials relating to a murder trial. Wanting new eyes on the evidence, he does not initially reveal who the victim is or the person convicted. In a fresh take on the epistolary form, the evidence is told entirely through emails, phone messages and transcript­s. The action revolves within the competing egos of a local amateur theatrical group.

Sienna Miller, Rupert Friend and Michelle Dockery star in an upcoming Netflix adaptation of Sarah Vaughan’s gripping contempora­ry courtroom drama Anatomy Of A Scandal. Miller will play Sophie, the wife of government minister James, accused of rape; Dockery, Kate, a prosecutin­g barrister.

From the golden age of detective fiction, Strong Poison by Dorothy L Sayers is a classic. It begins with detective novelist Harriet Vane on trial for the murder of her former lover. A fresh trial is ordered when the jury cannot agree a verdict. Admirer Lord Peter Wimsey, believing her innocent, offers his detecting skills to the defence team.

Enjoy these gripping tales of legal thrills and spills.

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