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When your life at the Bar has been as rich as Rumpole's, the past is best avoided. Who knows what might have happened to that dubious boy you got off a motoring charge at Swansea in the early eighties? Or that young man who went down for a minor case of safe-breaking, despite your best endeavours?
But the past has a funny habit of intruding nevertheless. When Rumpole takes an unwanted Christmas break in the country, he feels sure that he's met the local squire before. And that pantomime dame treading the boards at the Tufnell Park Empire seems oddly familiar. Strangest of all, Rumpole is forced to delve back into the hippy-dippy sixties when the skeleton of a young woman is found under the floorboards of a derelict house.
Some things never go away, of course: Pommeroy's Wine Bar continues to serve up its best Chateau Thames Embankment, Claude Erskine-Brown - suffering the pain of a trial separation from the delectable Portia - remains as inadequate an advocate as ever, and She Who Must Be Obeyed still insists that Rumpole socialize with her old schoolfriends.
But there's a new wind blowing too in this dazzling collection of new Rumpole stories: for the first time Rumpole finds himself appearing for an asylum-seeker at the Appeals Tribunal, and - worst of all - his chambers have become a smoke-free zone.
Perhaps it's all too much for Rumpole? Is the day coming when the lights will go out even on one of the greatest advocates to grace the Old Bailey?