Sunday 23 April 2017

The Lighterman - Simon Michael

The Lighterman is the third book in the bestselling series of legal thrillers starring barrister Charles Holborne. Simon Michael's follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne.

When Charles Holborne's cousin, Izzy, is accused of murder, Charles must dig up the secrets of the past to defend him. But brutal gangland leader Ronnie Kray will stop at nothing to get his revenge on Charles for the events of An Honest Man. Can Charles save his cousin...and his own life?

Simon Michael brings the past vividly back to life across a beautifully rendered 60s landscape, and delivers a gripping piece of thriller fiction that will excite any fan of the Britcrime genre.

What did I think?

If there is one series that I find myself recommending over and over again, this is it!  The Charles Holborne series is like a vintage wine - it just keeps getting better and better and, if it is at all possible, I think I will enjoy it even more by reading it all over again.  I was on tenterhooks for this third book in the series after Simon Michael left us with one heck of a cliffhanger in An Honest Man, so you can imagine my excitement when the author himself allowed me the enviable opportunity to read an early pre-proof copy of The Lighterman.  I switched off the phone, closed the curtains and headed off to court, fending off one interruption with the retort: 'Not now, the jury is coming back with the verdict.'

One thing (among many) that I love about these books is the complete immersion into the 1960's era.  There is no mistake that you are reading about 1960's London with a surprise cameo appearance from a famous face and the bigger part that The Krays have to play in this novel.  Before we reach the 1960's, however, we are given a glimpse into war-torn London during The Blitz with the Horowitz family heading to shelter as a bomb rips their house apart.  Charles is a young teenager who rebels when his family are transported to safety in Wales and runs away back to London where he ends up staying with his uncle and his family.  He becomes close friends with his cousin, Izzy, who is known on the river as 'Merlin'.  Charles soon finds himself working on the river as a lighterman and a bit of an amateur boxer in his spare time, with the 60's not being the first time he has found himself up against Ronnie Kray...

The flashbacks to the war gave us a brilliant insight into the Charles Holborne character we have come to know and love.  It's quite unbelievable in this day and age to think that just over 70 years ago Jewish people had to change their names to avoid persecution, with Cohen becoming Conway and Horowitz becoming Holborne.  I also loved the surprising history of Charles as a lighterman on the Thames, a far cry from the amazing barrister that he is in the 1960's.  The Thames itself feels almost alive with the hustle and bustle of barges and boats and the brave men who continued working through The Blitz, along with the Waterguards of HM Customs and Excise patrolling the river.

As we have come to expect with Simon Michael's books there is a gripping court case to follow.  This time it's personal as Charles defends his cousin, Izzy, who is accused of murdering a Waterguard.  The truth behind this case is heartbreaking and Charles must defend Izzy without the truth coming out, whilst also keeping one step ahead of The Krays who have taken a keen interest in him.  He might be able to run, but he can't hide as The Krays' eyes and ears reach far and wide.  Leading nicely into book 4 and another chapter for Charles Holborne as he finds himself struggling to stay on the side of respectability.

Whilst reading, I considered whether this could be read as a standalone novel, although couldn't understand why anyone would want to just read one of these magnificent books.  I think the author gives just the right amount of back story from the previous books to not only enable any reader to enjoy this book on its own but to encourage them to pick up the first two books.

I really can't recommend these books highly enough.  If you think Grisham is the king of courtroom drama, think again as Simon Michael has definitely raised the bar (no pun intended).   It's so realistic that you forget you are reading fiction; it's a proper edge of your seat courtroom thriller and with Ronnie Kray involved, absolutely anything can happen.  Read it or regret it!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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