The Retainer by Ernest Marlin


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This was another riveting read from witty author Ernest Marlin. Set in 1970s London, The Retainer tells the story of Geoff Wilkinson, a solicitor whose life goes pretty pear-shaped when he meets a professional crook.

Ernest Marlin’s novels are full of wit and charming characterizations, and The Retainer certainly didn’t disappoint. Geoff was a startlingly unlikeable protagonist. He started off well enough as a respectable solicitor, but as the story progressed it was revealed that he had a dark side. This sinister spiral made for entertaining reading. The Retainer was a definite page-turner, filled with suspense and scandal.

What made this book really interesting was that it provided the reader with an insight into the more unsavoury aspects of the world of law. Filled with graphic descriptions of shameless flirtation and the not-too-pleasant smell one might encounter when visiting a client in prison, The Retainer highlights Marlin’s skill when it comes to description. The rambling, descriptive paragraphs that focus on the small, mundane things (like the connotations of smoking in the office) compliment the fast-paced action. This creates an intoxicating narrative. The book is easy to read and relate to, which is part of what makes it so thrilling.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a romp through the 1970s world of law. Be prepared for a plot with lots of twists and turns!


A Hero of our Times by Ernest Marlin


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“A Hero of our Times” tells the story of a loveable rogue, David Llewellyn Evans, and his misadventures in the world of law, polo and marriage.

From the offset, the protagonist David (known colloquially to all as Dai) is depicted as a bit of a troublemaker. Not content with his lavish lifestyle as a successful solicitor with a wife and young family, Dai quickly falls into an adulterous cycle of corruption that ultimately leads him away from everyone he cares about.

I really liked Dai. He was a womaniser and a shady solicitor – a combination that should have made him distinctively detestable – yet he had a certain charm about his character that made him oddly endearing. Dai was always cheerful, always witty and always enviously well-mannered, even when his career was tumbling down around his ears and his wife had kicked him out of their family home. I found following the story of Dai’s midlife crisis very entertaining; it was lovely to see all the ways in which this intelligent, Welsh-born solicitor got out of the numerous sticky situations he found himself in. Dai, and the excellent way in which his character was built and described, turned this book from a treat into a proper treasure.

Although this novel excelled in terms of characters, I couldn’t help but notice that the book was utterly devoid of plot. “A Hero of our Times” is described as a “romp through the world of law”, and romp it does. The story gallops through the ups and downs (of which there are many) of Dai’s life seemingly randomly. His various affairs and polo matches occur in no particular order, and although there is a basic storyline of “Dai has a nice life. Dai then proceeds to screw it all up,” the rest of the book was just a list of the protagonist’s troubles. There was no climax, no “middle”, and the ending was rather rushed and unsatisfactory. That being said, the book was nevertheless very entertaining. It was the story of Dai and how he dealt with his midlife crisis, and one can argue that a story like that doesn’t need a plot because it is so much like real life. It was definitely interesting to read a story that had such a basic plotline, and although I would have preferred more of a distinct “beginning, middle and ending”, the lack of storyline didn’t subtract anything from the quality of the book.

This is the second Ernest Marlin novel I have read, and once again I was blown away by the author’s mastery when creating a flowing, natural tone that is rich in both humour and cynical wit. This book featured polo matches, 1970s leafy England and lots of shady characters to inhabit the sunny setting. There were plenty of opportunities for the author to include humour when a book covers such a broad a range of topics as this one, and Ernest Marlin did not disappoint. I found myself smiling at least once per chapter, and laughing out loud on numerous occasions.

Overall, I would say that “A Hero of our Times” was a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining read. Though somewhat lacking in terms of plot, it was still a charmingly witty novel that I would definitely recommend.