Hall of Fame Review: Bad Blood by Casey Kelleher (5/5)

Monday 17 November 2014
Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family.

In the underbelly of Soho s organized crime ring, everyone knows that retired boxer Harry Woods is not one to mess with. And that goes double for his family.

Harry has it all: the big house, the flashy cars, and an abundance of wealth. As much as money talks in his world, Harry knows deep down the only thing that really counts is family. Haunted by the sudden death of his wife, he ll do anything to protect his children, but truth is a heavy burden and hidden secrets can unravel even the strongest of bonds...

Without loyalty, family are bound together only by blood. Bad blood.

I'm starting this review still a little bit speechless, after not long finishing the book. I've read close to 200 books this year, and this is easily one of the best. Looking back at 2014, I've given a lot of books five stars, which is something I'm trying to change as when I compare some of them with this book, Bad Blood is in another league so there's no hesitation in adding it to my Hall of Fame. Casey Kelleher is an author who has been on my radar for a while, my go to crime website Best Crime Books is a big fan of her previous books, I've just never got round to reading them myself. This is a mistake I will soon be rectifying because even though I have a scary looking review TBR, I really want to read Casey's books right now.

Bad Blood opens and introduces us to a lot of characters, yet it never felt confusing with who everybody was. The main family are the Woods, our introduction to Harry being when he was a world famous boxer with the world at his feet, and a pregnant wife who he adored. Fast forward to the present day and his wife is dead, his children all grown up, and Harry one of London's most famous and feared gangsters. His estranged daughter Kelly comes back into his life with her waster husband Terry. His son Christopher is totally out of control whilst Christopher's brother Nathan is looking to take himself out of the family business and go legit, settling down with his girlfriend. Harry's youngest daughter also returns home from boarding school. Along the way we are introduced to more characters, all connected to the Woods family in one way or another. Throughout the book plans are made, secrets come out, and it isn't long before the lives of the characters start to unravel in brilliantly dramatic fashion.

The book does have an intriguing mix of characters. Christopher was especially evil, and is a character I think readers will despise. He doesn't show remorse for his actions, even taking pleasure out of taunting his own family. There is a reason for his behaviour though, and when it is all revealed I was left reeling. I'm a reader that likes to spot twists before they come, yet here I couldn't. Casey holds everything back until exactly the right moment. Kelly was a favourite character of mine, I found her transformation from how she was in the beginning to how she was at the end to be a bit quick, but she was a very likeable character I had no trouble rooting for. She was a realistic and believable character. Likewise for the rest of the cast. One minute you will hate a character, the next you will wonder whether it's wrong to like them. On the surface they are villains, making their money through crime but even the hardest of villains love their family, and that's the case here. There are some heartwarming and touching moments in the book, which you might not expect from a villain but which are still believable.

This is one of those books where there's so much I could talk about but it's difficult to do so without ruining it for people. The ending of the book was another jaw dropping moment, I just don't know how I didn't see the little twist coming, it was brilliant. The story at the end felt very final and was wrapped up nicely, which is a shame because, in this genre especially, I'm a big fan of series, following the characters over two or three books and seeing how their lives develop over a few decades. It would be a shame if this is the last we see of the Woods but either way I am massively excited to see what Casey comes up with next. I only hope she is a fast writer!

What I loved about this book is Casey's writing. It's extremely dark in places given the subject matter, but the book was infused with humour and sarcasm throughout, but never in a silly or unbelievable way. Certain parts actually made me laugh out loud, Casey has such a way with words and it really brings her characters to life, giving them real personality and adding lighter moments to what is otherwise a pretty graphic and brutal read, yet absolutely brilliant with it as that is exactly what I'm after when I pick a book like this up. Some scenes will make you want to look away, but the book is simply too addictive for that to happen. What I also look for is originality, the characters and the world they inhabit in books like this are invariably the same, it's what the author does with them that makes the book stand out from the crowd, and the story here is original and really good. I reached the end of the book and was a little gutted, I wasn't ready for the story to end and could have read on and on.

It wasn't all that long ago that this genre was owned by one author, its creator. The competition now though is so fierce with the likes of Kimberley Chambers and Jessie Keane that authors have to constantly up their game, and 2014 has been one of the most exciting years this genre has seen so next year is going to be even better I imagine. Reading this book at times reminded me of when I first read a Kimberley Chambers book, it brought back all the excitement I felt at having discovered a new (to me) author, one who is incredibly talented and who knows how to tell one hell of a story, and totally hook the reader in. I was gripped to the last half of this book, reading so fast I'm surprised my Kindle didn't break. Once you get started with this book it's really hard to stop reading. Kimberley Chambers is now a number one best selling author and if the same isn't true of Casey in a few years, I'll be very surprised. The move to a proper publisher appears to have worked wonders, and I predict other publishers will be chasing after her before long.

Overall then this book comes highly recommended by me. I recently compiled my Top 10 Books of 2014 ready to share in December, but that list will definitely be getting revised and I now have the difficult choice of choosing a book to kick out to make room for this one. To describe it in one word I would say 'outstanding' and you would be an absolute fool not to pick it up.

Thanks to Casey for arranging a review copy. 

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