Martina Cole






Hachette Livre, this edition first published Nov 2006
Reviewed by Sunnie Gill

Meet Lily. Lily is the wife of London gangster Patrick Brodie, and the mother of a tribe of children fathered by several men. CLOSE follows the story of two generations of the family, living in the violent gangland world of London from the 1960s through to the nineties.

CLOSE follows the fortunes of the family by chronicling Lilís life. Born into a poor household with indifferent and sometimes neglectful parents, Lil meets Patrick at the age of fifteen and is married to him by sixteen. Lilís status rises with Patrickís success in the underworld and falls again upon his murder at the hands of rivals.

This is a case where the author would have been well served by using the ďless is moreĒ philosophy. For example, three pages are devoted to Patrickís infidelities: when heís unfaithful, his attitude towards the women, how his wife feels about him cheating. Itís just too much. One paragraph would have been sufficient. Another instance is the murder of Patrick on his sonís birthday. Men rush into the house and repeatedly stab and beat him to death in front of his wife and children. The author relates this event, and then proceeds to retell it from the point of view of several people present. The problem with this is that she is merely restating the same thing with slightly different wording. The reader is offered no new insights into the event. Handled differently, it could have been a brutally stunning passage. However any impact the violence might have had is dulled by this heavy handed overkill.

Author Martina Cole seems to know about the sub-culture of which she writes, and the story could give the reader a real glimpse into this culture of crime. However, plot is a bit thin on the ground and predictable and the characters are one-dimensional shadows of what they could have been. In fact, I didn't care for most of them at all. There was little to like about them and nothing to admire. The book also suffers from being about two hundred pages too long. Martina Cole has many fans. I hope CLOSE doesnít disappoint them as it did me.

One last thing. By page 100, my copy of the book had started to come adrift from the spine and pages were falling out. Iím reasonably careful with the books I read, I donít turn down the pages and I donít bend back the spine. I was lucky: the publishers very kindly gave me a copy of CLOSE to review. Had I paid the retail price of $32.95, I would have been most unhappy to find the book falling apart just one quarter of the way through reading it.

November 2006 review first published on Murder & Mayhem



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