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Crime. Crime Writers. Crime Writing

Payback by Kimberley Chambers

This Review posted by Sam Blake on 27 March 2014.

By guest reviewer Amy Gaffney:

Family – they’re supposed to watch your back, not stab you in it.

When your family motto is “What goes around comes around,” it’s hardly surprising that life is full of drama and suspense, as the Butler’s prove. In their world of underground crime and exploitation, they’ve already proven that they’re not a family to mess with.
The death of Champ, nephew of Vinny Butler, self-imposed head of the house, sets in motion a series of catastrophic events. Who is backstabbing who?
And then every parent’s nightmare happens. Vinny’s little daughter Molly goes missing. But he has crossed so many people, who could the kidnapper be?
Set in London’s east end during the latter years of the seventies, and straddling the early eighties, the Butler family is portrayed excellently – Chambers knows her characters inside out. They absolutely burst from the book and instantly you know who and what they are.
Queenie and Viv are sisters, the matriarchs of the family, at times they serve to add a comedic element, which sometimes seemed excessive and unnecessary. The insight into their lives now and then did not always serve the fast paced grittiness that the rest of the book follows. Vinnie, Queenie’s eldest son and golden child, is the most sadistic of the family, enjoying his tough man about town role immensely until his daughter is taken.
In Payback, there are more layers than an opera cake, and plenty of leads are planted, which are quite tidily answered by the conclusion, save for the most important one. As the author writes books in serial form, I can only assume that the answer will be the opener for the third instalment of the Butler chronicles.
Overall, it wasn’t an easy read for me, I was bombarded with the sheer amount of characters very early in, and the excessive use of swear words grated on me after a few chapters. The fact that they swore blind was well established at the start and for me, I felt that it could have faded out a bit. We had a very clear picture of who these people were. However, after a while I knew who was who, but found that I was thinking in a very sweary way!
Chambers portrays life at that time really well, and insight into the Butler’s lifestyle can be unsettling at times – a very gritty and realistic view that must stem from her own observations.
Payback is a crime drama unlike any other crime fiction I’ve read, as in the crime being solved isn’t the highlight. Along with crime, it covers the stresses and the tribulations of family life within a crime environment. The family disintegration and how they deal with life is as important as the crimes they commit. As the author Kimberley Chambers says herself in this interview it’s what she sometimes refers to her books “grit lit” and I’d be inclined to agree with her.

Payback is released 30 January 2014 – Harper Collin