I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the first two novels in the Charles Holborne series, The Brief and An Honest Man, and I was delighted to be invited to join the blog tour for the release of the third instalment, The Lighterman. I’m also offering one lucky reader to opportunity to win a paperback copy of The Lighterman – see the end of this post for details of how to enter.
Simon Michael’s follow up to the bestselling The Brief and An Honest Man, continues the adventures of criminal barrister Charles Holborne. The Lighterman provides more of Charles’s personal history, dating back to the war years when he worked on the River Thames with his cousin Izzy. Gangland leader Ronnie Kray is not a man to forgive or forget. Holborne has ‘taken liberties’ and revenge will follow. But how to get at a tough and resourceful Brief with his own history of criminality and a penchant for violence? The answer: find a man who can’t be hanged twice. Now Holborne must dig up the secrets of the past to save two lives… one of them his own. 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 genre.
In the first two novels in the series, the reader is able to pick up little snippets about Holborne’s background, particularly his East End upbringing and the disagreements with his family when he anglicised his name thereby rejecting, in their eyes, his Jewish heritage. One of the things I loved about The Lighterman was finding out more about his past, particularly his time in London during the Blitz when he worked on the river with his uncle and his cousin, Izzy. I thought that this allowed the reader to get a more complete picture of Holborne as a character, and helps to show how he got to where he is today.
Both The Brief and An Honest Man have made reference to the infamous Kray twins, and Michael has been building up to clash between Holborne and the two brothers, whose paths he crossed in his last outing. It was no surprise that they formed a much more significant part of this novel, as the Kray twins, and Ronnie in particular, seek to avenge themselves. Thus, Holborne finds himself in a great deal of trouble, and I found this to be an incredibly exciting storyline as things come to a head.
I’ve always found Holborne to be something of a loveable rogue, and this book brings out more of this side of his character as he is forced into some misdemeanours of his own in order to save not just his cousin’s life, but his own as well. It’s sometimes hard to know if a good man doing bad things is meant to garner sympathy from the reader – in Holborne’s case, his motivations are understandable, even if this doesn’t allow the reader to fully condone his actions. I was completely on board with Holborne, however – it seems that almost everyone in the 1960s was corrupt in some way, and I think that you sometimes have to play the bad guys at their own game in order to resolve a situation. As Green Day said “Nice guys finish last”.
I love a good courtroom scene, and Michael once again delivers a fantastically tense case against seemingly insurmountable odds. I love those moments – the questioning of the witnesses, and trying to bring the jury round to a particular way of thinking. Scenes like these, when done badly, can come across as dull and repetitive, but Michael has this down pat, which I’m sure stems at least partly from his own experiences in legal profession.
I think that The Lighterman is the best in the series yet, and I found it to be darker and grittier than the first two novels in the series, although still in keeping with the style and tone set in the preceding novels. I do recommend reading the first two novels in the series before this one – there are references to the previous stories in The Lighterman, and I think it helps to understand what Holborne has been through in the last two novels in order to get the most out of this one.
The Lighterman was published on 8 June. Many thanks to Matthew at Urbane Publications for the review copy, and to Michelle Ryles for inviting me to join the blog tour.
Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:
As part of the blog tour, Matthew at Urbane Publications is very kindly offering a paperback copy of The Lighterman to one lucky reader. To be in with a chance of winning, either leave a comment on this blog post or retweet my pinned tweet by midnight on 14 June. UK entrants only please!