Review: No Mercy by Roberta Kray (4.5/5)

Tuesday 18 November 2014
The addictive new thriller. No one knows crime like Kray.

Maddie Layne's life hasn't been the same since her sister was murdered. The police never found Greta's body so all Maddie was left with was unanswered questions - and her orphaned nephew, Zac, to look after. She works hard to make sure Zac has everything he needs; she even tends graves for some extra cash. Maddie isn't looking for any trouble.

Lucy Rivers died decades ago under suspicious circumstances and the people responsible believe the entire affair is over. And then the mysterious Cato hires Maddie to tend to Lucy's neglected grave. Maddie starts asking innocent questions, but when she learns that the deaths of her sister and Lucy are linked she knows she must dig deeper.

Lena Gissing, matriarch of one of the East End's most vicious families, has a vested interest in making sure the truth stays buried. She's not about to let a nobody like Maddie Layne get in the way...

Given that this genre of books is my favourite, and that Roberta Kray was married to one of the legends that spawned its creation, it might come as a surprise to know that this is only my second read of a Roberta Kray book. I don't know why, but I just never got round to reading her books until I picked up Bad Girl last year, which I really enjoyed. No Mercy was a fantastic read, and one that has left me itching to read Roberta's earlier books. No Mercy had a real mystery feel throughout, which I found to be really exciting and kept me gripped to the book.

We meet Lucy Rivers in the prologue, stood up by the boy she was running away with she returns home to be prostituted out by her parents to a man named Brendan Vasser as payment for their debts. Back in the present day and we meet Maddie Layne, a grave tender looking after the grave of Lucy Rivers, and employed by a mysterious man named Jay Cato. Delia, the receptionist at the graveyard contacts her friend Lena Gissing, matriarch of a villainous East End family, after questioning Maddie about Cato. Lena is unnerved and then furious to find Maddie looking into her business. Maddie has discovered a connection between the deaths of Lucy and Greta, Maddie's sister who was murdered in a similar way to Lucy. Lena warns her off and in no uncertain terms tells her what will happen if she doesn't move on with her life. Maddie however has a fierce determination to find out what happened to her sister, and what the real story is surrounding Cato, Lucy and Lena.

The tension in these books always comes from the dangers that the characters face. Lena is after Maddie, but in the background we have Lena's son, who has plans to take over Kellston by weakening the Streets family. A lot of the characters are connected in some way, which adds to the mystery as we don't always know how and why they are connected. There are many unsavoury characters plotting in the background, we know all of the characters lives could be in danger at some point we just don't know where it's going to come from making this an unpredictable and at times exciting read. The characters are realistic and believable, the females taking the starring role for the most part as is the norm with this genre. I had no trouble rooting for Maddie, she was an extremely likeable character from the off, a normal girl who soon finds herself caught up in a very dangerous world with no escape. Lena was more scary and threatening than any man, and is not someone you would want to mess with. Likewise with the other villains, their plotting and cunning never comes across as pantomime, making for a realistic read. The story itself is also very believable.

The setting adds a different dynamic to the story as it is mostly set in the fictional Kellston, an area described as being in between Bethnal Green and Shoreditch. Lena for example lives in a penthouse in the Heights, a gated complex designed to keep out undesirables, and one which gives her a commanding view of London, which comes in handy when spying on enemies. The book feels authentic all the way through, really transporting you into this world and giving you a front row seat. There's something about the seedy and dangerous world of London's underworld that is very addictive to read about, which is why this genre is so popular.

All the different threads to the story soon start to merge together, the plans of the characters also coming to fruition, taking us to what I hoped would be a dramatic and thrilling finale. In the beginning the book moved a little bit slow for me, there was a lot of character building and scene setting which was of course needed but I did find myself wishing things would move a little bit quicker than they were. Towards the end of the book as we discover the real truth about the murders of Lucy and Greta I was actually left a little bit stunned. The book becomes very fast paced and action packed and I loved it. I certainly didn't guess most of what was coming, so credit to Roberta for writing a story that completely threw me off course with where I thought it was going to go. I was totally satisfied with how things worked out for most of the characters and I'd actually love some of them to appear in one of Roberta's future books.

I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending this book to fans of Martina Cole and Kimberley Chambers. It can definitely compete with the former's more recent work, but lacks the depth and sheer brilliance of Kimberley Chambers, but still a very solid read that took me no time at all to read. This genre of books is very exciting currently with the plethora of great authors we now have writing books, and Roberta is definitely one of them.

Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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