The Brief: Crime and corruption in 1960s London (Charles Holborne Legal Thrillers)

Written by Simon Michael
Review by K. M. Sandrick

Charles Holborne/Charlie Horowitz just doesn’t fit. He’s a criminal court solicitor in chambers that specialize in civil litigation in 1960s London and a man from a working-class Jewish family who’s more comfortable on the streets than in the drawing rooms and country estates belonging to his wife’s family and friends. He nevertheless gets along until his wife is murdered, and he stands accused.

The Brief introduces the extremely likable Charles as he applies his street smarts to investigations of clients charged with robbery and murder and the legal wherewithal to make reasoned arguments in their defense.

Unfortunately, the action shifts to a somewhat contrived all-clues-point-to-the-husband and innocent-man-on-the-run scenario. While the reader is engaged as Charles tracks down perpetrators, the planning and execution of his wife’s murder are in some ways too convenient and in others too complicated.

Also disappointing is the suggestion that Charles will forsake the powdered wigs of the Old Bailey and return to his roots in the Jewish community as a private investigator. For this reader, at least, that would be a shame. There are plenty of private investigators who can navigate the back alleys. Refreshing is a solicitor who can bridge both mean and gentile worlds and share insights from both. The first two-thirds of the book set this stage; the remainder, while interesting in Charles’ shift to Charlie, takes a different turn. One can hope that the next in the promised series of Charles Holborne thrillers returns to court.