Book #51

The Villain's Daughter by Roberta Kray

Small-time villain Sean O'Donnell walked out on his family almost twenty years ago and hasn't been heard of since. Now his daughter, Iris, has returned to the East End to find out just what happened. But it isn't going to be easy. Everyone close to Iris seems to be keeping secrets.

When the mysterious Guy Wilder offers to help Iris uncover the truth, he changes everything. As the son of the local criminal matriarch, though, Guy has plenty of problems of his own.

Iris returns to the East End to try and find her father, who disappeared when she was a young girl. Working in a local funeral parlour, she becomes entangled with the local crime family after hosting their wife and step-mother’s funeral. She soon begins to realise that the mystery of her father’s whereabouts is much closer to resolution than she’d first thought.

I really enjoyed this, and found the pace to be set perfectly. Kray engages us with her writing, but also with her clear knowledge of the London underworld. She drips new plot points, baffling clues, and subtle hints throughout the pages, and it truly keeps you engrossed as you obsessively try to understand who you can trust.

Although I worked things out pretty quickly, Kray didn’t quite allow me to be sure of myself, leaving the reader constantly guessing and second guessing. Things do become confusing and mysterious, which was very welcome to me, and despite my years of solving crime novels, this one didn’t follow the usual format.

None of the characters are likeable, all of them with flawed traits. I struggled with Iris who, despite attempting to be a strong independent woman, kept falling into the damsel in distress trope and relying on men to help her. Most of the others fell into typical caricatures of villains, although there were some moments of development which I felt deserved more attention and backstory.

An excellent mystery with a cast of characters desperate to be analysed; a great one for crime lovers, or those eager to crawl into the minds of criminals.