Review: The Ties That Bind by Erin Kelly

Friday 13 February 2015
Title: The Ties That Bind
Author: Erin Kelly
Publisher: Hodder
Publication Date: 29th January 2015
Pages: 368
ISBN: 9781444728392
Source: bookbridgr
Rating: 3/5
Purchase: Amazon
Luke is a true crime writer in search of a story. When he flees to Brighton after an explosive break-up, the perfect subject lands in his lap: reformed gangster Joss Grand. Now in his eighties, Grand once ruled the Brighton underworld with his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye - until Jacky washed up by the West Pier in 1968, strangled and thrown into the sea. Though Grand's alibi seems cast-iron, Luke is sure there's more to the story than meets the eye, and he convinces the criminal-turned-philanthropist to be interviewed for a book about his life.

Luke is drawn deeper into the mystery of Jacky Nye's murder. Was Grand there that night? Is he really as reformed a character as he claims? And who was the girl in the red coat seen fleeing the murder scene? Soon Luke realises that in stirring up secrets from the past, he may have placed himself in terrible danger.

I was really intrigued by the sound of this book and couldn't wait to read it. As a self-confessed true crime addict, it sounded right up my street. I knew it wouldn't be a straightforward tale however, given that Erin Kelly writes psychological suspense, which ordinarily I love but the suspense in The Ties That Bind was absent, with characters that lacked depth meaning that I struggled to like, or care about most of them. It's such a shame as the book had such a brilliant opening.

The opening sees Luke tied up somewhere after being kidnapped. Tidbits are fed to the reader, allowing us to guess how he ended up there but the picture at this point is still very much a blur. Taking us back in time by a week, setting the scene further, I was utterly compelled to read on. Then, we go back in time by a year, to a time when a move to Brighton wasn't even on Luke's radar. Luke meets and falls for Jem, a man who very soon develops an obsession with Luke, which is what makes Luke then flee to Brighton. The obsession story in the beginning was very rushed, unoriginal and not all that believable. Luke is such a boring character I failed to see why a man like Jem would become so enamoured by him. Whilst it was refreshing to read a book with gay characters, Jem's ending in this story felt cliched and silly and I just couldn't take it seriously.

When Luke arrives in Brighton, a story falls into his lap, one that could be the big break he has always been looking for. Joss Grand and his sadistic sidekick Jacky Nye once ruled Brighton, before Nye was found dead washed up by the West Pier in 1968. With the murder remaining unsolved, and with a number of clues pointing towards Grand as the murderer, Luke must somehow convince Grand to let him write a book about him, which he hopes in turn will provoke a confession from Grand, thus catapulting Luke to true crime writing stardom. Luke faces adversity from everywhere he looks, and despite being warned off he becomes almost obsessed himself with uncovering the truth.

Growing up fascinated with the Kray twins, their legend still lives on, with people never forgetting just how dangerous they were, or the crimes they committed. What I have noticed in recent years, as certain other crime legends pass away, with huge East End funerals is that they become almost revered, and that's the impression we get when we first meet Joss Grand as his philanthropic ways and image as he has gotten older has almost made some people forget just how bad he used to be and I have to say he was one of the saving graces in this novel and one of the characters I actually liked. Whilst there's plenty of twists in the book, and a lot of developments I didn't see coming, I still failed to engage with the book which disappointed me.

Brighton I felt was the perfect setting for this book, full of history and culture it has long been a fascination for many people. In fact one of the book club questions at the end of the book asks the reader whether they could picture the book being set anywhere else, I couldn't and felt that the location was definitely one of the book's good points. As well as the setting, Erin is a wonderful writer, it has been a while since I have read a book as well written as this one. This isn't a book I'm going to shout about from the rooftops, but this is only my personal opinion, and you only have to look at the reviews to see that others have loved it. Having read and enjoyed Erin Kelly's Broadchurch novelisation I wouldn't be against reading another of her books.


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