The Brief by Simon Michael

The Brief was published by Urbane Publications on 28th September 2015. 
In the 60s London of gangsters, prejudice and terrifying gang wars, Barrister Charles Holborne spends his life dealing with the worst examples of violent criminality. After successfully winning a number of high profile cases, he is building a reputation amongst Soho's criminal classes as a man who gets the job done, a reputation that doesn't endear him to his establishment colleagues.

Yet Charles is not all he seems, and is battling both personal demons and his own past. When his philandering wife Henrietta is found with her throat slashed, Charles finds himself on the wrong side of the law and in serious trouble of the murderous kind. Arrested for her murder, can Charles discover the truth of her brutal slaying and escape the hangman's noose?

Based upon real cases and genuine court documents, The Brief is a compelling criminal drama, and an evocative slice of sleazy glamour from the Swinging Sixties. 

I had anticipated when starting this book that it was going to include lengthy spells in the courtroom. I am glad that this wasn't the case. It was a gripping legal thriller that I whizzed through in a matter of hours, such was the pacing of the plot.

The setting of 60s London was excellently envisaged and provided an apt backdrop for the murkiness of this seedy tale. The author has a deft approach to plotting and even when I thought I had it all worked out and had the case closed there were still twists and turns to come and a red herring or two. 

I am not sure there were that many characters to like, that wasn't a problem though as the whole set of them were strongly written and drew my mind back to what life could have been like in Chambers in 60s London. I did however eventually end up liking Charles.

Charles the central character first of all struck me as a bit of a naive buffoon but in actual fact he went on to prove that he was astute and resourceful and at the heart of everything unrepentent in his search for justice. He is a bit of a hero really. Even when up against prejudice and criminality he never gave up on his quest.

This book was gritty, gripping and utterly compelling. Highly recommended to those who enjoy legal thrillers and even those who don't usually. The author has put his years of legal experience and research to excellent use and is one hell of a story teller.

I was also excited to learn that there is to be a follow up released later year called An Honest Man, which I will be looking forward to reading.

About the Author:

Simon Michael was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1978. In his many years of prosecuting and defending criminal cases he has dealt with a wide selection of murderers, armed robbers, con artists and other assorted villainy. 

A storyteller all his life, Simon started writing short stories at school. His first novel (co-written) was published by Grafton in 1988 and was followed in 1989 by his first solo novel, The Cut Throat, based on Simon's own experiences at the criminal Bar. In 1991, Simon's short story Split was shortlisted for the Cosmopolitan/Perrier Short Story Award. He was also commissioned to write two feature screenplays. 

Simon then put writing aside to concentrate on his career at the Bar. After a further 25 years experience he now has sufficient plots based on real cases for another dozen legal thrillers. 

Simon still practises law countrywide but now works only part-time. He lives with his wife and youngest child in Bedfordshire. He is a founder member of the Ampthill Literary Festival.

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