Courting Trouble, by Kathy Lette

Posted on 4th Dec 2014 in Reviews

Reviewed by Paul Magracourtingtroubleth

Faith in the justice system to deliver a fair verdict is in short supply on the grim council estate where the rape, drug dealing and some pretty grievous bodily harm take place in Kathy Lette’s latest novel, Courting Trouble. Her writing style, a giddy cocktail of high-heeled chick lit and wisecracking pulp noir, will not be to everyone’s taste. But there’s no denying her didactic good intentions, which are to put the spotlight firmly on the way rape trials are conducted.

The plot centres on the double rape of a teenager on her 16th birthday, and the actions of her feisty grandmother in going, armed with a shotgun, to confront the two alleged perpetrators, a pair of local gangland drug dealers. Was shooting them in the testicles a premeditated act of attempted murder, or was it simply the accidental discharge of a weapon whose only purpose had been self-protection?

The narrator, Matilda Devine, once “voted best legs in law school”, is a barrister who’s been kicked out of chambers for being rude to a judge, and so joins up with her sassy solicitor mother, Roxy, to form what’s described as Britain’s first “boutique feminist law firm which only champions women’s causes”. (As mixed professional partnerships go, it’s more Ab Fab than ABS.) It is to them that the gun-toting granny now turns. They are helped or hindered by several men, who in the end are either charming snakes or rugged heroes, but rarely what they first seem.

Although the writing sends out some rather mixed messages (“conviction rates for rape trials are lower than Lady GaGa’s bikini line”), hidden in the midst of all its flounce and fury is quite a decent little legal thriller.

For more literary stocking filler ideas, see my Christmas roundup of this year’s legal novels in Counsel magazine (December) under Your Bar, from which this is extracted.