Happy publication day to Marnie Riches whose brand new Manchester based thriller Born Bad is released today. I’m a huge fan of her George McKenzie series so when I heard she was releasing a brand new series I couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
The Official Book Blurb
A powerful, darkly comic novel set in the criminal underworld of Manchester from bestselling author Marnie Riches.
The battle is on…
When gang leader Paddy O’Brien is stabbed in his brother’s famous nightclub, Manchester’s criminal underworld is shaken to the core. Tensions are running high, and as the body count begins to grow, the O’Brien family must face a tough decision – sell their side of the city to the infamous Boddlington gang or stick it out and risk losing their king.
But war comes easy to the bad boys, and they won’t go down without a fight. So begins a fierce battle for the South Side, with the leading Manchester gangsters taking the law into their own hands – but only the strongest will survive…
When an author has an incredibly popular series running, I should imagine that one of their biggest worries is over whether or not to take a gamble on a new one. Readers can be funny beggars (I should know, I am one) and when they pledge allegiance to a character, they want to read more and more about them. Now for me, George McKenzie was one such character. The series is fab and the characters of George and Van den Bergen are very likeable. It has developed a good following and very deservedly so. But in reading the series I have very much come to like Marnie Riches style; the honesty, humour and grittiness that she does not shy away from bringing to her writing. Although very, very, different from her previous series, I really do think that with Born Bad, Marnie Riches has brought us another real gem, and in an intriguing and undeniably sneaky way too.
Now you probably wonder what I mean by that, and I’m going to try my hardest to explain because this is a book which really, really made me smile. In one of those sneaky, appreciative and a bit knowing kind of ways.
From the very beginning I struggled to find a redeeming quality about any of the key players in this story. We are, in essence, reading about some very dark characters; kingpins of the Criminal gangs controlling the streets of Manchester. Their attitudes towards women are considerably less than politically correct; they engage in abuse, trafficking and prostitution amongst other things. Paddy O’Brien especially is vile to his long suffering wife. And his rivals over at the Boddlington Gang who run the North side of the city are not exactly much better. Of these gangland leaders, it is perhaps only Tariq who shows any element of kindness to his family, with a certain respect for his wife and his father, even though both hate what he does for a living. Don’t get me wrong. The men don’t get it all their own way and there are strong female characters throughout. Tariq’s wife in particular strikes me as a woman who will take no messing.
But generally this book is about bad men, doing very bad things. Men who specialise in cruel and unique ways of gaining retribution over people who cross them. The Boddlingtons use the services of a man who is known as ‘Fish Man’ for the unique way in which he dispatches his victims. And Paddy… Paddy has Conky. As loyal and supportive a right hand man as any nefarious Crime Lord could wish for, but one who has a secret crush on someone he really shouldn’t have. Bless him. I think Conky was one of the few characters I actually liked. He was so level headed; the one semblance of sanity amongst the madness. And then there is Lev. Lev is just trying to make things right for his young son, a boy who is afflicted with a life threatening illness. You can almost forgive him his actions, or if not forgive, then understand what drove his choices.
This is a true fast action type of read. There is quite a lot of violence, but none necessarily gratuitously described. But then you’d have to expect that in a book about a gang war. They’re hardly likely to be debating local politics over cream tea now are they? And with a rapidly escalating situation between the two gangs, one which costs both sides in the most painful and personal of ways, you have to wonder just how either party can really expect to come out on top.
So. If the characters are abhorrent and the situation, the gang culture, so objectionable, what was it that made me smile? Well, the quality of the writing for one thing. In spite of the fact I didn’t like anyone, and for me character is as important as plot in drawing me into a book, Riches still managed to make me want to know what was going to happen to them. Why? Because… well you’ll have to read the book for yourself because I don’t want to give too much away. Put it this way, nothing is quite what it seems. While I kind of had a suspicion what was going on, I wasn’t entirely sure and I was kept guessing to the end. And god, it was a definite twister of an ending.
While one outcome seemed an almost foregone conclusion from about 2/3 of the way through, Marnie Riches managed to create the perfect set up which gave promise of so much more to come. I will admit that I’d been reading the book as though it was going to be a standalone (even though I know it’s part of a series) as that was how it felt. Until the end. The end was… it was fabulous. Sneaky, underhand, perfectly pitched and that, that is what made me smile.
You will find everything in this you would find in a George McKenzie book – stellar plotting, assured writing and great character development. And as for setting. Well, I’ve always felt this was one of Marnie Riches real skills as a writer; putting the reader into the location, setting the scene so well that you can almost taste, smell and touch the action as it happens. This book was no different and it painted a picture of a much seedier side of Manchester, one the tourist board wouldn’t be keen to promote. But still the book drew me in and wouldn’t let me go. It had me on the edge of my seat at times, broke my heart at others and totally left me wanting more. Can’t wait for book two.
A brilliantly dark and humorous read with a very worthy five stars from me.
My thanks to Netgalley and publishers Avon Books who provided an ARC of Born Bad.
It is available to buy now from the following links:
About the Author
Marnie Riches grew up on a rough estate in Manchester. She learned her way out of the ghetto, all the way to Cambridge University, where she gained a Masters degree in German & Dutch. She has been a punk, a trainee rock star, a pretend artist and professional fundraiser. Previously a children’s author, now, she writes crime and contemporary women’s fiction.
Marnie Riches is the author of the best-selling, award-winning George McKenzie crime-thriller series, published by Maze and Avon at Harper Collins. The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die – the first outing for crime fiction’s mouthy, kickass criminologist – won the Patricia Highsmith Award for Most Exotic Location at the Dead Good Reader Awards 2015, whilst the series was shortlisted for the Tess Gerritsen Award for Best Series in the Dead Good Reader Awards 2016. With the latest installment being “The Girl Who Had No Fear”, the books have garnered both a loyal readership and critical acclaim.
Her brand new Manchester series – a must-read for fans of Martina Cole & Kimberley Chambers – is coming in paperback as well as digital format. Born Bad will be released 9th March 2017 and will be available in all good bookshops. It is already available to pre-order via all good e-tailers.
In her spare time, Marnie likes to run (more of a long distance shuffle, really) travel, drink and eat all the things (especially if combined with travel) paint portraits, sniff expensive leather shoes (what woman doesn’t?) and renovate old houses. She also adores flowers.