*Contains a few spoilers, and is my longest review, but I wouldn’t feel like my review did myself or this book justice if it was any shorter*
I discovered Kimberley Chambers by complete chance, scrolling through Twitter. Someone had retweeted her latest book, ‘Queenie’, and the cover was very interesting, as was the title ‘The Queen of Gangland Crime’. Having never heard of her, I went onto her Amazon page, and her website and had a look at what her books were like.
Having not seen a bad word, and needing something to ask for for my birthday, I found a six-book collection online to ask for. These included three stand alone novels, and three in a series, ‘the Mitchells & the O’Haras’. After finishing a couple of other books and getting updated on those series, I immediately set about reading the first in that trilogy. That was ‘The Feud’.
Gripped from the start, this book is ultimately about a love story between the innocent (but naive) Jessica, and the villainous Eddie. Through nearly two decades, they fall in love, have two twins, make a lot of money (he does anyway) and their twins celebrate their sixteenth birthday. But while that’s the plot which keeps the rest of it together, there’s a hell of a lot else going on.
Eddie Mitchell’s feud with the O’Hara family defines him more than anything else. His only reaction to situations is violence, and he doesn’t care about who it hurts, as long as he (and Jessica) are safe. We see his temper and controlling nature flare up on many occasions in 1970 and 1978, but as a reader, while I could tell that he would go too far eventually, I put down his violence to being protective and justifiable.
That changes at the end of 1987, when his dad, Harry, is brutally murdered. He is overcome by grief, and wants to get revenge for what happened to his father, who despite being a gangland boss for many years, on all accounts, appears to be relatively nice. Compared to the rest of the family. The only time he’s ever seen to lose control is when he shoots Butch O’Hara through the foot, and he does suffer for that, not particularly proportionally either. But I liked Harry to a point.
His death turns a switch in Eddie, and I noticed that was where I grew to hate the character. That’s not to say I didn’t love reading him – if Kimberley Chambers reads this (like she did my tweet about it), rest assured, it’s brilliant characterisation. But the point where it all flipped was with his son, Joey.
It’s understandable he wouldn’t be able to accept his son being gay, but to go to the lengths he does to separate him and his boyfriend are extreme. There’s a scene in a London flat which really proves how far he lost control. And that’s the common thread. He loves control too much. And when he splits Joey apart from Dominic for no reason but his own reputation, that’s it for me. The O’Haras can take Eddie down if they want. No one deliberately hurts Joey like that! (I’ve grown extremely protective and fond of Joey, I don’t know if you can tell).
The whole drama with Frankie is in itself a whole new level. I won’t spoil too much about what goes down there, but, and as you’re reading, you won’t need my commentary to tell you this, but Stanley’s constant belief that Eddie will cause complete disaster and ruin for the family is painfully accurate. The ending is sad, but also makes me want to devour book two immediately! Sadly, I’ll have to wait a couple of hours……
I love her writing style so much, it speaks to my heart. Not every single detail is needed; who cares if its sunny or thundery, unless there’s a call for muddy boots as a major plot point, or severe foreshadowing. Sometimes great books can get lost in needless details, but this one goes with the flow and only tells you what is necessary.
As I previously mentioned, the characterisation is on point. Joyce and Stanley’s is amazing, for example. They snipe at each other constantly, she wants to climb the social ladder, he’s grumpy and wants to look after his pigeons and drink in the pub. Their bickering and speech are so realistic that it pulls you in, and you really get to know the characters. I certainly know who these two remind me of! It’s been a LONG time since I truly supported a character in a book quite like Joey, too.
I love all of the light moments in amongst the darkness too. Eddie’s aunts Vi and Joan getting drunk at the pub and being ridiculous is a highlight, but there’s many small points too. The character of Gina, a private investigator, is also one of my favourites, despite being only a minor character. I couldn’t stop laughing every time she arrived.
The final point I want to mention is the way character’s thoughts and emotions are betrayed. In a page, four characters can express how they feel, and I love that. I can’t recall seeing such a style before. It also allows for some very funny and witty moments, which again is another reason I love this book so much.
In short, this book is great. If, like me, you didn’t know the author before, but instead you don’t want to start with a series, her first stand alone novel was ‘Billie Jo’. I can’t speak for that book, but if it’s as good as ‘The Feud’, you’ll want to read all of the others too!