Monday 2 February 2015

The Ties That Bind by Erin Kelly

Could a soul, once sold, truly be redeemed?
Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story. When he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the Brighton underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye - until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea. Though Grand's alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there's more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal-turned-philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.
Luke is drawn deeper into the mystery of Jacky Nye's murder. Was Grand there that night? Is he really as reformed a character as he claims? And who was the girl in the red coat seen fleeing the murder scene? Soon Luke realises that in stirring up secrets from the past, he may have placed himself in terrible danger.

The Ties That Bind by Erin Kelly was published by Hodder in paperback on 29 January 2014, the hardback was published last year.

The prologue draws the reader in with bang as we find Luke in a desperate situation and fearful for his life, and then, all of a sudden Erin Kelly leaves the scene, and the reader hanging and goes back to begin Luke's story.

At first I was raging; I didn't want to go back, I wanted to know what was happening now, how could the author do this?  As I read on, I realised that this is Erin Kelly's strength; she builds up scenes, and characters with the greatest of ease, creating heart-stopping moments and uneasy tension along the way.

Luke is a writer. His career is stalling, the magazine he wrote for has folded and  his big story was snatched away from him by the lure of more money and fame. That's the price that Luke pays for writing about true crime, he has to deal with true criminals who think nothing of double-crossing him.
Working in a bar with his friend Viggo, Luke meets Jem; well-dressed, obviously wealthy and newly out. Jem and Luke soon become lovers, but the comfort and money aren't enough to disguise Jem's controlling behaviour and Luke flees to Brighton.

Luke's nose for a story soon finds him entrenched in the world of Brighton in the 60s. He is intrigued by Joss Grand and the unsolved murder of Jacky Nye that happened in 1968. Luke is certain that Grand's story could be the one that propels him to fame and fortune as an author and becomes determined to find out the truth, and to track down the only known witness to the event.
As Luke becomes more and more involved in the seedy dealings of old-school gangsters, his own life spirals more and more out of control, for although he has left Jem in London, his ex-lover is becoming increasingly obsessed and unstable.

Unlike many authors who set their novels around this era, Erin Kelly does not glamourise the events, her plot is tight, filled with mean and cruel villains who are as authentic as they are intimidating. Both modern-day and 1960s Brighton becomes a character within its own right, with the sleazy clubs, the terraced houses and the iconic pier.

Luke is a likeable but insular character, he appears intelligent and bright, yet acts on the spur of the moment, often appearing gullible and accepting. At heart, he is a good man and seems to crave friendship and protection from those that he meets. All of the characters within The Ties That Bind are expertly created, and I had a special fondness for Sandy who lives her Miss Haversham existence in her large house surrounded by newspaper cuttings.

The author's skill shines through in the way that she dots red herrings throughout the plot, turning the reader's assumptions and beliefs right around as the story twists and turns itself to the explosive ending. This is thriller writing at the highest level, edge of the seat stuff that will leave the reader exhausted by the end.

My thanks to Bookbridgr and Hodder who sent my copy for review.

Erin Kelly is the author of the critically acclaimed psychological thrillers The Poison TreeThe Sick Rose and The Burning Air. In 2013, The PoisonTree became a major ITV drama starring MyAnna Buring, Matthew Goode and Ophelia Lovibond. It was a Richard & Judy Summer Read in 2011, and was longlisted for the 2011 CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger Award. The novel has been translated into eleven languages. The Ties That Bind was her fourth novel, and was followed in August by Broadchurch: The Novel, inspired by the first season of 2013's mega-hit ITV series. 

She was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex, read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998, writing for newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Express and The Mirror, and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire and Elle. She lives in north London with my husband and daughters.

For more information about Erin Kelly and her books, see her website, : she also has a Facebook author page, and you can follow her on Twitter @mserinkelly