Hall of Fame Review: Backstabber by Kimberley Chambers

Tuesday 7 February 2017
Title: Backstabber
Author: Kimberley Chambers
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 9th February 2017
Pages: 496
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5
Purchase: Amazon

If you don't face your enemies – they'll stab you in the back.

One of them has a gun to his head. Who will pull the trigger?

When king of the underworld Vinny Butler goes into business with respected villain Eddie Mitchell, it's a match made in East End legend. Friends and family are treated like gold, enemies like rats – it's the life.

Then mysterious packages arrive, dead creatures and threats. Someone is out for revenge. Who the enemy is, nobody knows, anyone could be taking a pop. The gypsies who cursed Eddie, ghosts from Vinny's past, enemies needing revenge. Even their own flesh and blood? There are some people you should never cross, some who can't forgive or forget.

Who is the backstabber?

I can't remember the last time I was so excited for a book to be released as I was up until I got my hands on an early copy of Backstabber (and I was ecstatic when I then won a signed copy over on Facebook). Readers of my blog will know that I am one of Kimberley Chambers' biggest fans and I am constantly recommending her books all the time and they consistently make my Top 5 Books of the Year blog posts because they really are that good. Backstabber sees the return of the now notorious Butler family, and whereas the previous Butler book, Tainted Love, saw a brief return of Eddie Mitchell, Backstabber features both families with Eddie and Vinny going into business together.

Backstabber is the book that Kim has been building up to with everything that she has written about the Butler family so far. I (and probably every single one of her die hard fans) was ecstatic when I found out that she would be reintroducing Eddie Mitchell and his family because readers have been crying out for a return from them ever since Kim was signed to HarperCollins. Along with Vinny Butler, Eddie is one of the most recognisable and memorable faces within this genre and these two families are easily two of the best ever created. I'm glad that Kim didn't drag this series out as we've seen other authors do in the past, instead with Backstabber she has delivered one hell of a rollercoaster read with plenty of bloodshed, revenge and, as the title suggests, backstabbing. It left me open-mouthed on more than one occasion and I couldn't read quick enough to discover how the story was ultimately going to end.

It's incredibly difficult to discuss the plot, and after how many books have came before Backstabber there's no chance of even offering any kind of recap about where things are for the two families now. I follow Kim across her various social media accounts and always enjoy reading the updates that she offers about her writing processes for each book. It's not something that came easy and Kim has mentioned a lot about the struggles of merging these two families together, and making sure that nothing in their stories doesn't match up with what she has written in the past. I can say that reading this you wouldn't even know how difficult a book it was to write for Kim, everything just flows naturally and I very quickly remembered everything about the Mitchell's despite the fact it has been a few years since I read that brilliant trilogy of books. Merging these two families together was one of the best things I've read in fiction and it results in one epic and unforgettable showdown.

I feel very invested in the characters that Kim has created and so I was reading this constantly on edge wondering which of them would meet an untimely end this time around. Kim has made no secret of the fact that there's plenty of bloodshed within this novel and she wasn't wrong. Each book has featured a huge cast of characters, and two of the most intriguing have been Vinny Butler and his son, Little Vinny. Vinny to me hasn't been a character who has ever shown any kind of remorse or qualities where you could kind of see the good in him. He is evil through and through. Little Vinny on the other hand is a changed man, but previous readers will know just what he's done in the past and I couldn't read quick enough knowing that those secrets just had to come out in full before this book was over. Queenie Butler is another favourite character of mine, a proper East End character who has been forced out of her beloved Whitechapel, she's quite lost in the world as the book opens with the funeral of her much-loved sister, Vivian. Kim offers some light relief alongside the heavier stuff thanks to Queenie who is a larger than life character, even more so when she's introduced to Eddie Mitchell's mother-in-law, Joycie.

Backstabber was somewhat of a bittersweet read for me, and I actually felt genuine emotion as I read the story, fictional characters they may be, but Kim writes a gritty and believable read that you forget all about that as you turn the pages and these characters come alive in your mind and feel like real people. It felt like we were saying goodbye to the two families for good, with most things tied up quite nicely (or not so nicely for those that didn't survive) however I do think there's potential to see a return from both the Butler's and the Mitchell's in the future, if Kim could come up with a good enough storyline to warrant us seeing them again. She has mentioned about wanting to write a prologue to The Trap (the book that introduced us to the Butlers) and I think that would be fantastic. One thing I have always enjoyed most about Kim's books is how she incorporates music into the story, and how authentic it feels reading about 'old' London, a London that is unrecognisable now. Reading about the early days of the Butler family would just be amazing. I am though excited to see what Kimberley Chambers brings us next. Is Backstabber her best book? I want to scream that yes it is, but I also want to read each of them again now that the series has been brought to a (for now at least) close and then give it some real thought (she's my favourite living author I'm allowed to overthink it...) but what I can say with no hesitation is that it is one of her best books and is a worthy conclusion to what has been one of the best series of books I have ever read, across any genre and I now hope that the series is finally picked up by TV. I know that Kim almost has the perfect cast in her head (there's even a cheeky mention of some of the actors within Backstabber) and this series of books would make for some of the most gripping drama TV has ever seen and would introduce these two families to a whole new audience.

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