Tag Archives: Simon Michael

Blog Tour and Giveaway: The Lighterman by Simon Michael

the lighterman

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.

Rating: ★★★★★

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!


An Honest Man by Simon Michael


Rating: ★★★★☆

An Honest Man is the second novel in Simon Michael’s Charles Holborne series, and begins approximately one year after the events of The Brief (you can see my review here), the first novel in the series.  I think that you could read An Honest Man as a standalone, although it would give away key elements of the first novel, so I would recommend reading these in order.

Charles Holborne is struggling to get back on his feet following the events in The Brief.  Unable to obtain all but the merest scraps of work, his bank balance and his rent are suffering.  Just as he’s considering alternative careers simply to earn a living, he lands a new case.  And it’s huge!  But is it too good to be true?  As Holborne begins to dig into the events surrounding his client and the accusations made against him, he is drawn into the murky world of London gangs and corrupt police officers.

In reviewing The Brief earlier this year, I said that the author brings a huge degree of authenticity to his novels without resorting to overly complex legal jargon, and I’m pleased to say that such is the case with An Honest Man.  This is a believable (hardly surprising given Simon’s background) courtroom drama.  Throughout the story, the reader is also presented with various legal documents, such as witness statements, and these also add to the authentic vibe that the novel imparts.  And I love that these are based upon actual Old Bailey cases!

A fair proportion of this novel is given over to a courtroom battle between the prosecution and Holborne’s defence of his client.  Whilst this may not satisfy those who like action-filled novels, I found this to be incredibly gripping, and this is probably one of the most tension-filled courtroom scenes I’ve read since Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  I was riveted as both sides scored points against the other, the tactics they use to discredit each other’s witnesses, and it was never obvious which way the jury would go.  Of course, there’s a twist, but I’d hate to spoil it for you!

I was absolutely thrilled when Urbane Publications recently announced that the third novel in the Charles Holborne series, The Lighterman, will be published in June 2017.  An Honest Man ends with a tantalising hint of what’s to come, and I can’t wait to see what Holborne gets up to next.

Many thanks to Simon Michael for providing a copy of An Honest Man for review.

The Brief by Simon Michael


Rating: ★★★★☆

Working as a barrister, Charles Holborne is used to dealing with criminals, but always from the “right side” of the law.  When his wife is found murdered, he is the prime suspect and is subsequently arrested for her murder.

Determined to prove his innocence, he manages to escape and goes on the run, following up on the clues that the investigating officer refuses to acknowledge, so determined is he to see Holborne convicted.

Can Holborne clear his name before the police catch up with him?

Charles Holborne is a great character.  Unlike most of his colleagues, he wasn’t born into wealth and has fought his way up from his East End roots, and I liked that he stayed true to his nature rather than trying to fit in with those around him, which is often an easier path to follow.  He also takes on the criminal cases that many of his peers won’t touch, and as such has something of a reputation as a maverick.  I love a rebel, and Charles Holborne is certainly that.

Throughout, The Brief felt authentic, both in terms of the time in which it’s set, but also as a courtroom drama and police procedural.  This is hardly surprising, given that Simon Michael has himself worked as a barrister, and I liked that he was able to evoke such authenticity without resorting to overly complex legal jargon – this is a brilliantly written novel that is easy to follow.  Michael incorporates various legal documents such as witness statements to enhance the story, and these, combined with the references to real-life events going on at the time helped to evoke time and place.

I really enjoyed The Brief.  It’s a gritty drama set in 1960s London and is brilliantly plotted.  This isn’t a thriller with a big twist, but more of a police procedural in which the clues eventually lead Charles and the reader to the perpetrator.  An entertaining read, and one that I read in two sittings.  Highly recommended to those who enjoy a good ol’ fashioned whodunit.

The Brief is available now in paperback and as an eBook.  Many thanks to Simon Michael for providing a copy for review – I can’t wait to get on to An Honest Man, the second Charles Holborne novel.