Legal journalist, broadcaster, crime fiction critic and proud French citizen

Inspired by the performance of Orson Welles as the crusading attorney Clarence Darrow in the 1959 film Compulsion, the young Marcel Berlins set his sights on the law. Although he was never to emulate his legal heroes in any courtroom drama, the law was an important strand throughout a career in which Marcel, who has died aged 77 after suffering a brain haemorrhage, became a prominent legal journalist and broadcaster. In a sense, law-breaking played an important part in his second career, as a highly respected critic and reviewer of crime fiction.

His distinctive voice and delivery became familiar to Radio 4 listeners on Law in Action, which he presented from 1988 to 2004, and, from 2007, as a south of England team member on the cryptic Round Britain Quiz. His judgments on the latest crime fiction in his regular review column in the Times for 37 years became required reading for thousands of aspiring crime writers, agents and publishers, and he wrote a legal column for that paper and, later, the Guardian.

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