If there’s one thing which Kimberley Chambers does in her stories which sets her apart from everyone else – and this could be quite a long list – is that she knows how to wrap up one novel and set up just enough plotlines for the next in the series.
Fast-paced and exciting as ever, ‘The Wronged’ is what you would expect from a Chambers novel. Vinny Butler is evil as ever, and Little Vinny seems to be heading in the same direction following the shocking events of the previous book. However, he’s a different kind of villain, and one which I even found myself sympathising with as he tried to get his life back on track as the action moved to 1984. He matures a lot in the three year jump, and I long for him to be able to live a normal life with Sammi-Lou in the last couple of books in the series. However, his surname is Butler, and with previous mistakes lurking to bite him in the arse, somehow I don’t think that will be the case.
Vinny’s brother Michael is at the centre of the other main strand of plot here, and he seems to be a right Jekyll and Hyde character. He tries to be good, but he can’t let go of his gangster roots, and seems willing to conduct some of the more gory business without so much as flinching. He doesn’t have the same sadistic streak as Vinny, and out of the two, I hope he manages to have a happier life.
His one-time fling, Bella, returns on the scene with her young son, Antonio, and she’s genuinely one of my favourite characters, even if she will only become a main one in the next book. A shocking twist at the end suggests that she’s rather more intertwined with the Butlers than first thought, and her father, Giovanni, could well serve as the next big foe which Vinny must face. Bella and Michael could well turn into a very twisted, Mafioso edition of the age-old Romeo and Juliet story.
Queenie and Vivian getting up to no good as they approach their sixties is the main light relief, as is a blossoming friendship between Vivian and Queenie’s ex, Albie. It’s a very subtle one, built around a shared hatred of Vinny, but it’s heartwarming and gives both characters an outlet to move on with their lives, following a lot of grief and pain caused by the other Butlers.
This feels like a turning point into the second half of the series. The Turkish Zane family seem to be on their way out of the stories, although with a couple of threads which need to be tied up. Various other families – the Prestons and Walkers – are also reaching their natural conclusion in this story, yet still with some presence. Jamie Preston will be out for revenge in a few narrative years time….. Additionally, with the introduction of Bella’s Italian family, along with the further integration of the Mitchells (I absolutely love all of the references back to the Mitchells and O’Haras series), the Butlers’ story seems to be heading in a new direction as we go to the late 1980s.
Next in the series is ‘Tainted Love’, which instantly gets me singing the famous and influential Soft Cell hit. Hopefully Bella D’Angelo fares better than the other women who get too close to the Butlers…
‘The Wronged’ is another incredible addition to my collection of Kimberley Chambers novels. If you like gritty, fast paced, gangland action with a dollop of soapy twists and narrative (along with some very grounding references to the culture of the times) than her books are most definitely for you.