Having read ‘The Trap’, the first in Kimberley Chambers’ second series of novels chronicling the lives of East End gang families across the generations, I moved straight onto ‘Payback’, its sequel. This is a book which even surpassed my own lofty expectations.
On the face of it, this is much like the rest of her books. Evil villains doing evil things, good people getting trapped in their webs and innocent people getting killed for it. Opening just days after the conclusion of ‘The Trap’, the story starts with Roy and Lenny’s joint funeral, and Vinny Butler covering up for the fact he was responsibly for their untimely demises. Indeed, much of the first quarter of the book is dealing with the aftermath – but far from being boring, it compelled me to race through it.
The story really picks up when the story shifts to 1980. Admittedly, I’m now in the middle of creating a family tree to keep up with all the relatives of the family while I’m reading! Vinny and Jo’s young daughter Molly is now three years old, and Little Vinny, now a teenager, resents all of the attention she’s receiving. Indeed, Vinny even has a moment of reflection where he wonders if his son would have turned out better if he hadn’t had his mum, Karen, bumped off when LV was a small child. Little Vinny may now be my favourite character, though – he is truly evil, but I can sympathise with his more human side than the others…
Ahmed Zane has been plotting revenge for three years after Vinny, thinking he had also been killed in the fatal crash, had placed him in the driving seat. He never seems to truly get it, though, as he has a lot of schemes for his payback, but through one way or another, Vinny manages to slip out of it. I enjoy his devilish behaviour and efforts to keep Vinny under his thumb, although he does seem a little one-dimensional. I really hope in the future, once Vinny discovers what he had been planning with Nancy’s brother Christopher (and more), that they have a legendary feud.
The book takes a turn for its final third, and here is the strongest part of the book. Little Molly is kidnapped, and Chambers takes time and care to show the unimaginable strain it puts upon the whole family and everyone else involved. You’re kept guessing until the final page who was really behind it – and I didn’t see it coming in the slightest. The last five pages were even more dark and harrowing than the first 500, and that truly says something.
As someone who devoured the Mitchells series, I’m truly loving the little Easter eggs that Chambers places throughout this book. Eddie Mitchell makes a welcome appearance, both at the funerals and after Molly vanishes, and I’m looking forward to ‘Backstabber’, where the two families team up. I’m already excited for Frankie and Joey’s reappearances!
I’ve got a couple more books to go first though, as I sink my teeth into this story further. ‘Payback’ could well be Chambers’ strongest book – although ‘The Traitor’ is certainly stiff competition for that. Both fans and newbies to her work will love the Butler series – I’ve read over a thousand pages the past two weeks! Onward bound to the third (‘The Wronged’) in this five book (six if you include ‘Queenie’) thriller series!