Published in 2017 The Lighterman is the third book in the series. Not having read the first two books I was a little concerned, but happily there was enough back information woven into the story so that I didn’t feel confused at all or unable to follow the plot.
Renee at It’s Book Talk began this meme as a way to share old favourites, as well as books that have been waiting on the ‘to be read’ pile for however long, and are finally getting an airing.
The story opens with a short prologue going back to September 1940 and the blitz. Charles Horowitz along with his brother, David, and parents, Harry and Millie, live in the East End and are taking shelter from the bombs in the depths of the school. When one of the bombs lands too close for comfort the family risk a race across the playground and just make it before the school suffers a direct hit. The Horowitz’s are evacuated to Carmarthen but after four weeks Charles runs away, back to London where he spends his formative years as a Lighterman with his cousin, Izzy.
Charles’ choice to anglicise his name, compounded by his ‘marrying out’ during his last Year at Cambridge was seen as a betrayal by his parents. However, his decision was prompted by the negative feelings for the Jewish community, fuelled mainly by their refusal to adapt and integrate. So Charles Holborne, as he is now known, is working in the Old Bailey, doing his best to navigate the corruption, bribery and crime which is rife in 1960’s London. The London of the notorious Kray twins. Charles has previously fallen foul of the twins, particularly Ronnie, and is on their ‘Hit List’. He gets no help from the police as they believe he was involved in the murder of his wife and deserves what he gets.
The man’s casing of the room complete, his eyes land on Charles and he moves immediately. In three silent steps, he halves the distance between the oak swing doors and Charles’ back. As he walks he allows the silver object to drop completely into his right palm and, with a precise click, the blade of a flick knife springs into place.
When Izzy is accused of murdering a Waterguard, the equivalent of todays River Police, Charles is forced to cross the line and break his own rules, as well as the law, in order to defend his cousin. His career, and both their lives, are in jeopardy but Charles is determined to do all he can to save his cousin. Charles’ methods may be questionable, but understandable under the circumstances, given the fact he didn’t know who he could trust.
The atmosphere of the 1960s is skilfully and evocatively portrayed. I had no idea what a Lighterman was and found the insights into their role on the River Thames, and how that aspect was woven into the story, fascinating and adds much to the characters of Charles and Izzy, both of whom are convincing, well drawn and engaging in their different ways. The tendency of the general public towards anti-Semitism, coupled with the suspicion surrounding his wife’s death, combine to give Charles an enigmatic quality.
Charles and Izzy’s relationship and the court case are at the heart of the story. The courtroom scenes are depicted wonderfully, with tension and drama. Awareness of the author’s background and knowledge adds immeasurably to the story’s credibility. An engrossing read, well crafted and with a great twist.
About the Book
Life for Charles Holborne seems to be settling down. He has a steady girlfriend, is in demand at the courts, and is back in contact with his estranged family.
Unfortunately, though, he’s got on the wrong side of two of the most dangerous men in London: Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
A shock encounter leads to Charles taking on one of the most important briefs of his career.
But as old prejudices resurface and Charles’s past comes back to haunt him, it seems not only his reputation, but his life could be on the line…
Can Charles settle the score with the Kray Twins? Will he lay to rest the ghosts of the past?
Or will his defence of The Lighterman be the last case he ever takes…?