Book #22

The Family by Martina Cole


Phillip Murphy is a family man. He worships his old mum; he takes care of his siblings who help run his business empire in Southend; he dotes on his two young sons who will one day take over the reins. And then there's his wife and saviour Christine, whom he loves with a vengeance. Christine has always understood this about her husband; it was one of the things that first attracted her to him. But there is another side to Phillip, and it's a side he never wanted his wife to see. Though, even if she did, could she do anything but stand by him? Because Phillip has rules, and he expects loyalty from his nearest and dearest.

Although Cole has never been one to provoke thought, or make my mind surpass its small limits, sometimes a crime novel is something I savour for its simplicity.

And this was something different; Cole shuns her usual plot-driven structure and focuses entirely on her characters. We meet a young, naive fifteen year old girl and journey with her as she falls in love with a dangerous man who will ultimately become the king of his own criminal empire.

There’s a lot of layers here, and a lot of jarring family dynamics. The dangerous ways the characters relate to one another, how they love and betray, are thrown bare for us to see. As Cole continues to remind us of the family’s rules on privacy and secrecy, this is something which feels voyeuristic, almost like peering into the personal spaces of the royal family.

It’s a nice whirl through the criminal underworld from the perspective of familial connection, but nothing overwhelmingly excellent. Easy to read, fairly engaging, but predictable and unsurprisingly gratuitous.