Saturday, 24 September 2016

Roberta Kray: The Debt

I recently picked up a copy of The Debt, by Roberta Kray. Modern crime novels don't particularly interest me, so it was an unusual choice. To be honest it was the name of the author that initially caught my attention - Roberta is the widow of Reggie Kray, who along with his twin brother Ronnie, was one of the most feared gangland bosses in London's history.

The plot centres around Johnny Frank, released from jail after serving 18 years for murdering a fellow criminal following a Hatton Garden diamond heist.

The story is one one of bitterness and revenge set against attempts to recover the stolen jewels.
Johnny Frank is a superbly crafted character. Cold, methodical, violent, but with an underlying empathy which, whilst it exists, is rarely acted upon. I was reminded of Ralph Fiennes portrayal of 'Harry' in the movie In Bruges, the physical description even matches.

Indeed, all of the main characters are strong, and most lose such sympathy as the reader may instinctively have for any fellow human being very quickly.

The story is told in the first person, with the narrator alternating chapter by chapter between Frank himself and Simone Buckley, the daughter-in-law of Jim Buckley, a former associate of Frank, against who the released murderer bares a deep grudge.

The plot unfolds fast, with many twists and turns. Seemingly every character has their secrets and their ulterior motives. There are the inevitable romantic undertones throughout, which I find distracting, if not irritating, but that is not a criticism of Mrs Kray's style of writing, it is about my own personal tastes.

I subconsciously nodded agreement at Frank's comments about how the East End had changed during the 18 years he had been in prison, although a real life East Ender would have had a lot more to say on the subject for certain.

The book is a good read - the fact that I found time to read it from cover to cover over the course of just two very busy days says something.

The Debt, Roberta Kray (Robinson, London, 2006) isbn 9781-1-84529-212-6

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