When suave barrister Charles Holborne gets on the wrong side of the law, his ability to hot-wire an Austin Healey and deliver a right-handed uppercut become as critical as his smooth defence of robber Del Plumber.

In Simon Michael’s taut thriller, consorting with 1960s London low-life is the least of Holborne’s problems when a personal crisis brings him to the attention of menacing superintendent Wheatley. He would break a rule ‘into small pieces to get a conviction’, and cites Holborne’s ‘sociopathic profile’ as evidence of dark deeds.

All the while, Holborne stays one step ahead of the police, adopting dodgy accents and, with his picture on front pages, disguising himself as a ‘darker version of Michael Caine’. Holborne has an ally in detective constable Sloane, but even equipped with a pistol it is touch and go if he will prove his innocence. Along the way there is a fortuitous meeting with old school friend Rachel Golding, which propels the story towards a compelling denouement.

Author: Simon Michael

£8.99, Urbane Publications

Any number of colourful characters could have a motive for turfing Holborne out of his chambers and into a police cell. One of them is his beautiful and rich wife Henrietta, who pines that her husband is rarely around at their country pile in Buckinghamshire. She knows her marriage is on the rocks and embarks on a ‘thing’ with Laurence Corbett, though she laments a sex life ‘governed by the vagaries of the civil court process’.

Ivor Kellett-Brown, who lives in Lincoln’s Inn with a dozen budgerigars, also nurses a grudge.

In weaving Holborne’s adventures around legal London, Michael evokes the ‘pyramid of steaming cholesterol’ of the all-day breakfast at Mick’s, and the ‘damp sheep pen’ smell at Bow Street Magistrates’ Court (pictured). Michael writes excellent dialogue too, especially between Plumber and crook Robbie Sands.

Holborne first appeared in The Cut Throat – and on this form Michael should cast him in more adventures.

Nicholas Goodman