After being a massive (and I can’t stress this enough) massive fan of Kimberley Chambers’ exceptional Mitchells & O’Haras series after reading it a year ago, I’ve been excitedly waiting to start her second long-term series, the Butlers. This review contains spoilers – although I will say that it is a brilliant opening to what I fully expect to be an engrossing series.
I had it on very good authority (the author herself) that the main protagonist of this series, Vinny Butler, does such explicably evil things that he makes Eddie Mitchell look like a mouse in comparison. I can agree with that statement after just one, rip-roaring, page-turning novel.
‘The Trap’ is the longest of Kimberley’s books that I’ve read, and by far the longest I’ve read in a while. But the 530 page length is about right, and indeed could easily have been longer. It sums up the novel well, as members of multiple families get trapped in the web of lies all centred around one man – yep, Vinny Butler – and are unable to escape. But as evil and twisted as Vinny gets – and I would say that framing your best friend for the death of your cousin while getting the daughter of one of your mortal enemies pregnant as revenge for a feud is pretty twisted – he never quite turns into the twisted caricature which you fear he will at one point. Although he is a very evil man and I hope he gets his comeuppance at some point (I’m sure he will – Kimberley has a way of getting her characters justice).
This has a very ensemble cast, all of varying likeability and importance. Queenie, mother to Vinny, Roy and Michael, is the matriarch of the family. A very domineering and controlling woman, you can see where Vinny got his street-wise, ambitious attitude from. She can’t see anything wrong with her brood, which is exploited for some comedy in the descriptions as she “couldn’t understand why other parents wouldn’t want their children mixing with theirs”. Her and Vivian, her sister, make for some great comic relief while also truly showing the strong, emotional backbone of the family. They are two more in a long line of strong, female leads which Kimberley writes so excellently, bringing women into the centre of a genre which so often can feel blokey and dull. Her characters feel authentic and you genuinely care for them – no mean feat considering there aren’t even images of them to refer to.
Not all her characters are likeable though, and not much would please me more than for Donald and Christopher Walker to be squeezed like an ant under the thumb of the family. At start their concern for daughter Nancy getting married to Michael Butler was understandable, but they turned horrible and Christopher’s only redeeming feature is his potential as a future pawn in Vinny’s game. Mary is an absolute diamond, though, as are Freda and Dean Smart who may be two of the only truly good people in this story.
As usual, the fast-paced writing had me whizzing through this in less than a week, and the last 100 pages in just a couple of hours. The soap opera quality which Chambers imbues in her work sets it apart from the rest, as you never know what is going to happen – but it’s going to be dramatic, and have massive ramifications. Plots are intricately weaved together throughout the story and let loose near the end, while leaving many, many threads open for the sequel, ‘Payback’. While I would be extremely happy if there were no more unplanned babies created with the purpose of trapping partners, I must admit it is pretty apt for the name.
I’m looking forward to seeing Ahmed’s feud with Vinny blow up into a war over the next book, as well as seeing who else he takes on. Little Vinny is growing up to first be a handful, but then I’m sure a chip off the old block – although I keep picturing the author’s beautiful cat of the same name when I do so! Honestly, the only thing better than a great author is one who shares photos of their pets – and Kimberley Chambers does both.
I’m moving straight onto book 2 – ‘Payback’ – which will keep me company on a long train ride on Thursday. If you haven’t yet sampled some of Kimberley Chambers’ work, I beg you to do so – this is the fifth book I’ve read from her, and none of them have been less than 5 star. She has a group of loyal fans for a reason!