by Martina Cole
Martina Cole has a reputation for writing gritty, down to earth novels set in the seedier side of London. I have read only one of her books before but she is a firm favourite of a relative who has passed a couple onto me recently, including this one.
The Take is the story of one family, the Jackson’s. At the centre of the story are Cousins Freddie and Jimmy. Fresh out of prison, Freddie is determined to make a name for himself using the contacts he made on the inside. Ten years Freddie’s junior, Jimmy looks up to his older cousin and stands beside him as their reputation grows.
Despite their close bond, Freddie and Jimmy are two very different characters. Even their wives, sisters Jackie and Maggie, are poles apart in both temperament and ambition. But like many families, there are tensions behind closed doors, But even as Freddy’s increasingly violent ways become more difficult to tolerate, it is his feelings towards his wife’s sister that will eventually be the undoing of them all.
They say that families should stick together, but in this case, things only get better when they don’t.
Centred around the criminal underworld of East London. The Take is as much a story of family ties and breakdown as it is about gangland killings and drug deals. Certainly, these have their place and are at the heart of the story, but it is the strained relationships and dealing with the consequence of their actions towards each other that form the main thrust of this compelling story.
The characters are good and remain consistent throughout the book. The plot is simple which suites the narrative which kept me hooked throughout. Violence and sex are always there, but not in a gratuitous way. There are a couple of briefly graphic scenes, but they are short relevant. The book concentrates on the emotions and consequences rather than the acts themselves. The story has a good pace and like the reality it is try to convey, events often take unexpected turns.
Although she will not be to everyone’s taste, Martina Cole is good at what she does and I for one find her work easy to read and entertaining, in a gruesome way. I found myself drawn into the world the characters inhabited and felt a great affinity for some of them, particularly Jimmy and Maggie, who’s lives are almost torn completely apart by the one man who should have been there to support them.
Intense, but worth a read.