Is the story of an eminent, rigorous and unpopular High Court judge driven to murder the victim of his judicial error who has constructed a diabolical plot to revenge himself on the man who sentenced him.
Judge Laurence Knox, terror of the Central Criminal Court, is told his adopted daughter, Julie, has been arrested for car theft in Oxford. He persuades a curious young junior lawyer called Barrett, her former boyfriend, to defend her.
Judge Knox drops everything to come to Julie’s aid. When she nearly dies in prison, he discovers she is a drug addict. As he investigates Julie’s crime, he finds they are strangers and he is even a stranger to himself.
Gradually, he suspects they are being drawn into a trap. His inquiries confront him with call girls, addicts, pimps and gamblers. Behind these, he senses someone bent on destroying Julie. He is beaten up and all but killed after visiting an Oxford gambling club.
A coded message leads the judge into Brixton’s sordid back streets to meet Connie Blackwell; he hears how she and her pimp set up a man called Flint for raping Connie; Knox had judged the case eight years before and sentenced Flint to ten years on their false evidence. Now, he realizes Flint alias the wealthy gangster, Strang, means to destroy him through Julie.
Strang lures the judge home to show him obscene and revolting films of Julie main-lining with heroin and prostituting herself with men of every race and color. The normally impassive and austere High Court judge loses control and smashes Strang’s head and face to pulp. He destroys the pornographic cassettes, writes a murder confession and rings the police.
Against all advice, he refuses offers of plea bargaining or clemency. He astonishes everyone including Barrett by enlisting this unknown junior counsel, to defend him, aware of the man’s self-doubt. Then, he makes things almost impossible for Barrett by rejecting the idea of using copies of the pornographic cassettes in evidence. His only concession is entering a Not Guilty plea.
Barrett not only has to contend with the judge and his own failings; against him he has a cunning and unscrupulous Attorney-general and a cantankerous Lord Chief Justice; he is also in love with Julie, who, he thinks, spurned him.
Although Judge Knox refuses to have Julie or himself take the stand in his defense, Barret schemes to bring their testimony and the obscene pictures into evidence.
He provokes legal clashes with the Lord Chief Justice, outwits him and stages a series of dramatic coups de théâtre which win over the jury and force the LCJ to hand down a minimal sentence.