Irish crime family rules the rackets in 1970s London.
British crime writer Cole’s first novel to be published in the United States is a gritty exploration of the rise and fall of a peculiarly Celtic mob dynasty. The depth of characterization that distinguished The Sopranos and The Godfather is sorely lacking here. Patrick Brodie is the undisputed kingpin of drug, gambling and prostitution operations in London’s vast underworld, thanks to his carefully forged alliances with muscle—thug enforcers like the Williams brothers—and ethnic power bases, such as the Caribbean African element, led by Spider and his Rastafarian crew. Pat marries Lil, shy illegitimate daughter of Annie, who’s always resented Lil, especially when the latter becomes her meal ticket. Lil and Patrick are a true love match, although as Lil gives birth to four children, she grows increasingly impatient with Patrick’s irregular hours—“skulduggery” is not a nine-to-five job. Patrick, ever vigilant for incipient plots to topple him, takes spectacular revenge on a few errant snitches, former allies and crooked cops, but new mobsters are amassing influence. The traitorous Williams brothers aim to unseat Brodie and Spider once and for all. At home, Lil, pregnant with her fifth, brutally punishes her second son, kiddie sociopath Lance, for pushing a six-year-old girl off the school bus. Shortly before eldest son Patrick Jr.’s long-planned lavish tenth birthday party, the Williamses ambush and assassinate Patrick in the family foyer. In the aftermath of Patrick’s removal, his archrival Lenny takes over, eliminating the brawny but brainless Williamses. Lil is forced to prostitute herself to Lenny to support her family. But Patrick Jr. is getting older and stronger every day and bears an uncanny resemblance, in looks and temperament, to his father. Under the radar, Lance, abetted by adoring granny Annie, is committing his most egregious crimes in the Brodie home. Cole’s repetitious analyses of family dynamics and gang politics renders the book at least a third too long.
A dismal sojourn in some very unpleasant company.