An Honest Man, by Simon Michael, is a courtroom drama set in 1960s London. It is the second book in the author’s Charles Holborne series which started with The Brief (reviewed here). The Kray twins feature so there is plenty of scheming and gangland violence, but at the heart of the story is the English legal system and the corruption that exists on both sides of the law.
A year after events recounted in The Brief, Holborne has fallen from grace. The previously up and coming barrister has been in a new chambers for many months but is still struggling to attract instructions. With his finances in the doldrums he is reluctantly considering a change in career that would enable him to pay his bills.
The book takes some time to get going. There are a large number of shady characters to get to know before Holborne is handed the case that has the potential to pull him from the mire – defending a solicitor, Harry Robeson, who is known to represent powerful criminals and who stands accused of involvement in a diamond heist. Holborne and Robeson share a similar background as Jews raised in the East End of the city. When Robeson decides to help Holborne in a family crisis, their relationship becomes more personal.
As in the previous book, the workings of the law and the courtroom scenes are well developed and make for fascinating reading. Holborne comes into his own when cross examining a witness and managing a jury. His legal colleagues are still wary of his religion and lack of social connections more typical in their profession, especially given his previous brush with the wrong side of the law. However, he is good at his job and this case gives him the chance to prove it. What he had not, perhaps, factored in was the lengths to which the powerful gangs would go to protect their own.
The narrative is fluent and entertaining. Certain scenes with Holborne’s girlfriend were a little too graphic for my tastes but they are asides in a tale of corruption and the steps some will take to achieve what they regard as justice.
The denouement was chilling leaving plenty of scope for a sequel. I will be interested to see where the author takes Holborne next.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.