A woman is on trial for her life, accused of murder. The twelve members of the jury each carry their own secret burden of guilt and prejudice which could affect the outcome.In this extraordinary crime novel, we follow the trial through the eyes of the jurors as they hear the evidence and try to reach a unanimous verdict. Will they find the defendant guilty, or not guilty? And will the jurors’ decision be the correct one?
“The prisoner is guilty, or she’s not guilty, that’s all: we must decide just that and not think of consequences.”
‘Verdict of Twelve’ is a fantastic example of British crime writing, in it we follow the trial of Rosalie van Beer, a woman accused of murder. We see the trial through the eyes of the twelve jurors. Twelve jurors who all have their own secrets, experiences and prejudices that will influence their ultimate decision. The book is split into three parts – part one we meet the jurors, part two we hear of the crime and part three we see the deliberation and verdict.
The detail and the characterisation of this book is marvellous. I thoroughly enjoyed the opening where we meet our jurors, Raymond Postgate brings this eclectic bunch to life with his attention to detail and makes the trial even more intriguing by divulging the secrets of the chosen twelve.
“The law did nothing to protect me, and now expects me to protect and punish others.”
And once we reach the deliberation in part three we can see clearly how events in their lives influences and sways the decisions – even though they are supposed to judge just on the evidence given in the trial.
The murder is a classic Golden Age crime scenario – death by poison. Rosalie van Beer is depicted as a mean and cold hearted aunt to young Philip. There is a particularly awful moment involving Philip’s rabbit that made my blood run cold. It is easy for readers to come to their own decision as to her innocence or guilt.
This is another great crime read that The British Library has brought back into the light. And as Martin Edwards says in his introduction it’s hard to see why this classic novel vanished from the shelves. This was a book full of intriguing characters, with a superb story and it’s wonderful example of 1940’s writing. Plus this books features the word ‘popingjay’ how can you not love a book that features the word ‘popinjay?!!
“This popinjay – that was the word, popinjay – had slouched into his office, cross-examined him about his business, and fooled him into believing in a gift scheme.”
BOOKISH CORNER RATING – 5/5 STARS
You can read more about The British Library Crime Classics here The British Library Crime Classics
Raymond Postgate was a socialist journalist and historian, and founder of the Good Food Guide. He also wrote highly regarded detective novels, of which ‘Verdict of Twelve’ is the most famous.
If you like ‘Verdict of Twelve’ then you should try:
‘Sad Cypress’ by Agatha Christie
‘Antidote to Venom’ by Freeman Wills Crofts
Synopsis and cover from waterstones.com