Imagine Ally McBeal and the rest of the staff of Cage & Fish transported from Boston to London, into a highly sexualised environment, and you’re getting close to the debut novel from former Hendon journalist Jo Kessel. The protagonist of Lover in Law is even called Ali.
“Ali Kirk is a barrister and she’s been trying to get pregnant with her long-term boyfriend and failing, so she’s a bit fed up,“ says Jo, who grew up in Hendon and went to Henrietta Barnett School. “The story starts in the new year, when she’s resolved to turn her life around, and her boss gives her a very high profile case – a chat show host on a dangerous driving charge.
“It gets interesting when she starts having an affair with her sexy new black colleague – and falls pregnant by him. She faces a huge moral dilemma at the same time as this big case, it’s quite fun. Lawyers might read it and go ‘that’s not what happens in a court room’ so maybe it’s a little bit more Ally McBeal than I intended but that’s fine!“
Jo got the idea for the novel from a radio programme her husband listened to. “It was about the amazingly high statistic of mothers who didn’t know who the father of their baby was and pretended it was their partner’s. I then added the extra twist of one of the men being black so you wouldn’t be able to cover it up if the baby did turn out to be his.“
Jo, who has lived in Highgate since university, herself qualified as a barrister but decided, before she started practising, that it wasn’t the career for her after all and so moved into the world of journalism, both print and broadcast, and she has written for the Daily Express, The Independent and The Daily Mail.
Jo picked her lawyer friends’ brains to make the Old Bailey scenes as accurate as possible and used her own experience of broadcasting to write about the client’s life as a TV presenter – and then just filled in the gaps.
“Ali’s certainly not me – she’s a far better barrister than I would ever have been! She’s quite attractive and competent but not very confident and quite self-deprecating. I sort of think of her as Angelina Jolie but a bit cack-handed.“
Lover in Law is available as a paperback from Muswell Hill Bookshop on Fortis Green Road or from Amazon.