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The Ties That Bind by Erin Kelly

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A writer researching the 21st century residue of Brighton's 1960s' underworld discovers it's not as long gone as he first thought. Yes, Erin's fifth book (including the official novel of the TV series Broadchurch) is as intriguing, exciting and downright riveting as the other four.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444728361

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When writer Luke falls in love with Jeremy, the fact that Jem (to his friends) offers to support Luke, allowing him to write a book, is a bonus. As soon as Luke discovers an unsolved murder from around 50 years ago, the book's subject is assured. However both the subject matter and Jem's endless support will present Luke with problems (and not a little danger) that he couldn't have foreseen.

This is the third of the four Erin Kelly novels I've been blessed to review and I've experienced the same problem each time: I've been so riveted that I've forgotten to make my customarily lengthy review notes. This means that I end up writing the review entirely from memory, but with a novel like this, I'm not likely to forget anytime soon, despite a sieve-like… errr… thing.

We know we're in for a treat even before leaving the prologue. Anything that starts with the hero hog-tied, alone and losing consciousness is guaranteed to make us wonder how he got there. Over the rest of the novel Erin back tracks, supplying us with the answer that will lead intriguingly down many a twisting path and blind alley.

The characters who manipulate our expectations are a hotchpotch of credible personalities. From the ambitious Luke to his amazingly generous lover/benefactor Jem, friend Charlotte struggling with a father in failing health and, of course, the illustrious (and infamous) Joss Grand.

Grand is the maypole around whom the story revolves. Not only is he Charlotte's boss and local property magnate, he also happened to be a 1960s Kray-esque villain specialising in torture.

As Luke interviews him about his past dealings, Joss is understandably tetchy but still reveals a lot about the life, the temptations and the problems of gangster life back in the day. The way his reputation was shaped as much by psychology as deeds makes fascinating reading. Luke's main worry is whether or not Joss's bad days are over. (That's not a spoiler by the way – it's there in the prologue.)

Erin is the mistress of the well-measured twist. Ok, I guessed one of the revelations about 20 pages before its announcement but then discovered this was only one, minor element. The rest of the revelations came as total shocks. Having said that, I have a suspicion that even if you guess it all (clever clogs!) you'd still want to follow it through to its conclusion, step by nail-biting step.

It's not just about the human stars though. Erin has set it in her beloved Brighton, even fiddling with a historical time line so that Luke can research in one of her favourite old haunts after it had actually been demolished. Indeed, Brighton is a location that always stands up well in a novel (for evidence I cite Brighton Rock and, more recently Alison McLeod's Unexploded) but once Erin has worked in her trademark labyrinth of secret connections and explosive endings (sometimes literally), she matches its architecture with her own stature. Now we just have to sit back and wait impatiently for Erin Kelly 6.

Thank you Hodder & Stoughton for providing us with a copy for review!

Further Reading: If you haven't read it yet, we definitely recommend The Burning Air by Erin. If you're already a fan, try some more Brighton in the beautifully written Unexploded)

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