by Stephen E Mitchell
Teacher’s Comments: Original story; Interesting Characters
The Nine Tenth’s Rule’s title refers to the legal principle that “possession is nine tenths of the law.” That maxim is at the core of Stephen Mitchell’s debut novel, which revolves around a mad bet between two wealthy Englishmen, and an Old Tom Morris putter.
The main characters in the story are the third generation descendants of two eccentric English lords who bet their entire estates on the final outcome of an annual golf match. The bet had long been forgotten, but when an estate sale unearths the pact, the search is on for the putter—the possessor of which secures both estates.
Working out the legal aspects of this bizarre bet is Maurice Bainbridge, principal of the firm of Bainbridge and Bainbridge. Maruice’s grandfather Edward had worked out the original paperwork on the bet, and now it’s up to him to work out the original intent and see justice done with the heirs.
Mitchell has more Bainbridge novels in mind, for a substantial subplot revolves around the discovery by solicitor Maurice Bainbridge of his grandfather’s diaries. Those diaries apparently contain many more mysteries to be solved. There’s no indication of whether any of those will involve golf.
In tone, The Nine Tenth’s Rule reminds me of the work of PG Wodehouse. The setting is upper crust England, the characters quirky, and the humor sly. The Nine Tenth’s Rule is not a “funny” book, but it’s much lighter than the usual legal fare of Grisham, Turow, or Connelley.
The novel is well written, aside from a few editing errors, such as “… their contest—one embarked upon in a fit of peak in the summer of 1921.” That should be “pique.” There were a few others that I caught—and probably a few that I didn’t.
In all, though, I enjoyed the book. Recommended