Crucial Evidence

By Margaret Barnes

Crime & mystery | Paperback, eBook


Junior Barrister Cassie Hardman is defending a man pleading not guilty to a brutal murder. She is in no doubt he is guilty until she discovers compelling new evidence. Risking her future career and her ambition to take Silk, Cassie sets out to find the missing witness. As the Old Bailey trial continues there is mounting tension; will the witness be found in time to save the defendant?



Whenever I am asked if I always wanted to be a writer, my immediate response is to say no. I didn’t aspire to be a writer but I did write. In my teens I wrote stories of unrequited love, variations on the Romeo and Juliet theme, and with a friend, I invented scripts for a TV serial, loosely based on Emergency Ward 10 (for those of you who remember that.) Then life took over. A law degree at Sheffield was followed by articles with a firm of solicitors in Blackpool. After a couple of years fighting male chauvinism in Lancashire, I began my love affair with London. It wasn’t long before I wanted to change from being a solicitor advocate to being a barrister. I desperately wanted to address a jury. Some would say the best of my fiction was defending in the criminal courts, although representing the parties in divorce cases could be compared to a Mills and Boon novel. So for twenty five years I went to court on a daily basis, and I wrote jury speeches. I missed working after I retired, and began to think about writing a family history. Most of my immediate family have been brought up in Florida USA, and have no idea about their English ancestry. When I was young, we all lived in the same town in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire and my mother would talk about her relatives and our father’s. I thought it would be interesting for my two nieces to have a book which told the stories and myths about their English family. I began writing. I was bored after the first two pages and it was my family I was writing about!!! I decided I needed help and after meeting someone at the Ways with Words Festival, who was starting an MA at Plymouth, I applied for the MA in Creative Writing at Exeter. The tutors Sam North and Philip Hensher, encouraged me to write a crime novel and that’s where I am now


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Whenever I am asked if I always wanted to be a writer, my immediate response is to say no. I didn’t aspire to be a writer but I did write. In my teens I wrote stories of unrequited love, variations on the Romeo and Juliet theme, and with a friend, I invented scripts for a TV serial, loosely based on Emergency Ward 10 (for those of you who remember that.) Then life took over. A law degree at Shef...


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Diane Munier

Diane Munier

4 June at 21:17

Author Margaret Barnes spent twenty-five years in England's court system. Her mastery of understanding that system shows in Crucial Evidence. Barnes delineates the details of Lenny Barker's case. Lenny is charged with the brutal murder of prostitute Shelley Paulson. His defense barrister is Cassie Hardman. At first Cassie is sure Lenny is the killer though she's astute in recognizing a latent charm that could be innocence. When she uncovers new evidence during her investigation she risks her career to pursue an elusive killer.
While the case unfolds we are given glimpses into Cassie's life. She has an apartment in beige and white, her father's attempt through a hired decorator to create an environment that nurtures Cassie. This is, in fact, most telling in the case of Cassie Hardman. She invests heavily on the side of her profession. There she takes risks. But an almost elegant poverty exists on the other side of the line, a very careful control, and this is perhaps one of the most intriguing clues given. The 'Hardman,' label is protecting a real flesh and blood woman and while the case is an excellent and intelligent read, I found myself most curious about the woman moving through the labyrinth of violence. I admit, I wanted more about Cassie as she was my most relatable vehicle for living inside of the story.
But Cassie is a strong female lead and yet she maintains a graciousness. I love when writers get that right, not turning women into some version of what we perceive to be masculine, but showing how a female takes the lead. The story comes most alive when Cassie takes risks, yet she does it with the vulnerability that is all too familiar to real-life heroines.
Barnes knows her craft and Crucial Evidence is a compelling read. It shows the inner workings of a high-profile case and how difficult and life-threatening it can be to serve justice. Take it to the beach or read it in front of the fire. This author won't disappoint you. I look forward to future work from Ms. Barnes.

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