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The Hunted

KERRY BARNES certainly didn't take the normal route to becoming an author of gangland novels. Having grown up on a council estate in the South East of England she began life as a microbiologist and then went into medicine. It was only when her daughter was born that she began to take her writing seriously and by the time her children were grown, she had written four novels. Ruthless and Ruby's Palace were the first books she wrote and before rushing to judgement I will probably have to take a look at them.

For my first experience of Kerry I listened to The Hunted on Audible but I'm afraid I wasn't really won over. With apologise to Kerry's many fans who love the rollercoaster pace of her books, I found there were too many characters to get to grips with and that none of them had any redeeming features at all. Even Michael Corleone from the Godfather was likeable in a small way, but I felt no empathy with these characters whatsoever and, to be honest, there were too many of them. At times things switched around so much you were in danger of getting confused about who were the Irish tinkers, the jews, the east London crew, the other Irish gang... phew!

I find the cover extremely perplexing, too. Due out in paperback, it features a woman's face and the blurb is all centred around Zara Ezra, a woman taking over in a man's game having inherited her father's east London firm. Yet Zara is a bit of a peripheral figure. I suspect these covers and explanations are deliberately misleading on purpose, designed to appeal to the number of female readers of this genre who, from my experience, far outweigh the men. Zara might come into it a bit more towards the end but the real action is centred around Mike Regan, his gang and his story.

During a feud with a rival gang, he sends his wife and son away for their own protection, but his wife isn't all she seems and he loses complete touch with his son, fearing he has been kidnapped. This plot thread runs throughout the book but there really is no mystery, because the reader is kept fully informed throughout about what has happened to the boy.

A weighty novel, it is decades before the complex mix of gang rivalry, family loyalties and long-standing hatreds come to the surface, and then they are all wrapped up too neatly with a flimsy explanation as to the underlying reasons behind the whole saga. Don't get me wrong, it is exciting and races along at a breakneck pace. Unfortunately it leaves the reader grasping for explanations that never really arrive.

LIke I said, though, I shall give Ruthless a go to try to get a better handle on Kerry's style.

3 stars

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