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Maura's Game - Martina Cole
Description: Author: Martina Cole / Genre: Crime / Thriller
Martina Cole has written eight previous novels, all of which have been bestsellers.
This book is a sequel and on the back it explains the following;
"Maura Ryan was the queen of the criminal underworld when she pulled off the most audacious gold bullion robbery of all time. Since then, she's retired from a life of crime to be with the only man she's ever loved. But enemies from her past are closing in and they're about to learn that they should never cross Maura Ryan"
I have read a few of Cole's previous books and found that this one was written in a very similar style. The plot focuses on the old school criminal underworld, but takes a slightly different slant by making women the ones who run the show. There is a lot of violence, bad language, drugs and alcohol and scenes are described which may be shocking to the reader.
Maura believes that she has retired from this world, but when her partner is killed by a car bomb meant for her, she finds her world turned upside down. Other murders are carried out and it quickly transpires that her family are being made to look like they are responsible.
If I had to, I would probably summarise that this book covers betrayal, revenge, family and love. I was never a massive fan of Cole's (feeling that she often glamorised situations and portrayed women as being the weaker sex) but actually found that I enjoyed this book more than her others. Each character is slowly revealed, before they all connect with each other in a conclusion that feels satisfying and well thought out.
I am surprising myself by giving this book 4 Dooyoo stars, I found it to be fast paced but with enough detail to draw things out in a way that left me struggling to put the book down. If you are a fan of Cole then you are likely to love this one, and even if you are not, it may be worth giving it a try to see if it surprises you the way it did me!
This is a sequel, and I must admit I have not actually read the first book, so when I started to read this one, I had no idea what had already happened. You pick up on what happened in the first book very quickly, but I think this will mean that the book (and probably this review) will be a spoiler for the that. I would much have preferred to read these in sequence, so if you've not read the first book and might want to, I'd strongly advise you to read that first.
Maura Ryan, in her mid-forties, is thrown back into the world of gangstarism and violence, after hoping she had left it all behind for good, when her partner is killed by a car bomb, meant for her. Then the killings of the wives of other big crime names occur, and appear to be attempts to frame her family as the perpretrators. Even Ryan women are targeted. The victims were not directly involved in criminal activites of gangs, and for Maura, and many others, this is seriously crossing the line. Only not everyone believes in the Ryans' innocence. War is on to clear the Ryan name and take revenge for the attacks on them, before the family name and reputation are destroyed, along with their businesses and even more lives.
For a while, I thought this was going to be nothing but a book about violence, sex and men going on the rampage to get attention and big reputations. I thought it would be full of ignorant rubbish to be honest, and was briefly confused by why a woman would write something like this, when it even is filled with sexist images and starts out portraying the non-violent women as foolish and feeble. After hesitation, I continued to read, and slowly started to realise what Martina Cole was actually doing. She writes from the viewpoint of her many characters and each time there is a new event, I saw something different. Had I not continued reading, I would not have realised that she actually gives a really visual and emotionally powerful account of the ripple effect of every small action from the start. Nothing is really forgotten, and you start to realise this when the story develops more twists. It became increasingly interesting, and even with the rather sadistic behaviour described to the point of being cringeworthy, it was not just about all the big boys with their guns. It has just as much about families and friendships, trust and principles. Cole's book is actually very intelligently written, and quite inspiring.
One of the biggest strengths I felt this book had was the way in which she developed the characters, with personalities like roller coasters that take sudden and often unexpected turns. There are loads of characters in this book, and a lot of interaction crammed in. Not all of the characters are as colourful, and one or two I had to remind myself about, but the ones that are more developed really make the book worth reading. Some key characters are:
Maura, the heroine of the book and centre of all interactions. She is described very well in the book and seems quite unpredictable, although we don't see much action from her in comparison with others. I imagine much of her activity would have been in the previous book. It is hard to work out what she will do next at times, but this just adds to the suspense and excitement in the book. The other females in this book are often showed as very badly treated and foolish, always forgiving their cruel partners at the expense of more decent souls. The women, often not as weak as they appear, generally give an eye-opener, however, on the true impact of violence, aside from its immediate effects. This, I found fascinating.
Brother of Maura, Garry, is someone I hated when he was first introduced, because he seemed like nothing but a spoilt woman-hater and violence lover, but where there's room for improvement, there is always that possibility. Just how much he changes in this book is left to your own judgement at the end. Maura is hoping Garry can be the next top dog, but first she needs to be sure he has what it takes.
Another key terror to look out for is Benny Ryan, Maura's nephew. Along with his Indian sidekick, Abul, he goes around putting the fear of God into random people, and boy does he know how to with his signature eye-glueing technique! Again, he loves his violence, and it seems, just for the sake of violence, rather than for some real cause. He sounds heartless, but will he sober up before he burns every bridge?
Structure, language and writing style
The book is separated into books 1 and 2, then broken down into chapters and nicely sectioned out. It was a very easy read, and in spite of myself, for the first time in a long time, I found it hard to put down. When I did it was usually easy to get find a good point in the book and story to stop reading. There are lots of cliffhangers at ends of sections and chapters, which also made this easier.
I didn't get tired reading it or lose my place much at all, and that for me is a first. If you don't read often, and you don't get offended easily, this is a brilliant book to get you going. Although you may need to set aside fair chunks of time to finish it. In spite of the large number of characters to learn about and different things going on, the straightforward language made it easy to follow what was happening and why.
One thing I was really not happy about in this book was the excessive level of swearing. To be fair, people these days do swear a lot, but not so often the "f" or "c" words, which are used much too heavily in this book. If you are offended by swearwords - as was my poor mum - you will probably chuck the book after a few pages, if that. Personally, I can just about tolerate it, but it does get irritating and quickly loses any effect it is meant to have when used this much.
Also, when I say violence is descriptive, I mean it. I half expected detailed sex scenes, but there were none. The violence served its purpose but it has to be pointed out that if you are not prepared to hear about torture and some pretty horrific murders, this is not a book for you. Thankfully, violence is not the only thing that Cole describes so well, and you can picture a lot of these characters so well that they could have been new characters on Eastenders! In terms of appearance, she is slightly more vague, but in terms of personalities and atmospheres, you can imagine and feel them almost precisely.
This book simply cannot be recommended to everyone, because of its highly offensive and often descriptively violent content. However, if you can see past that, and are interested in crime fiction this is a particularly good read, and probably unforgettable. I'm not sure I would read it twice, but I rarely would read a book twice anyway, given how slow I am, unless I didn't fully understand it the first time, and this one I understood perfectly. When I started reading, I got through the first chapters and actually nearly put it away because I didn't like the mysogeny and coldness displayed. Then I picked it up again, because I wanted to know what would happen next, and I didn't regret that at all. So, if you can, do persevere with this one. The book is not perfect, but it is worth it.
Mauras Game by Martina Cole
Maura Ryan the star of Martina Coles first novel Dangerous Lady returns in this sequel. As the head of the largest crime family in Londons underworld Maura has a busy life controlling the clubs, betting shops, loan sharks not to mention her own family. How will she cope when someone starts attacking the family trying to take over their territory?
Written in Coles usual graphic and in your face style this is a novel you wont be able to put down. The characters follow on from the first book Dangerous Lady with the addition of several new ones both within the Ryan family and from outside of the family. As with her other novels there is a great collection of supporting characters that add depth to the story.
The story starts with a bang in 1994 then jumps six years to 2000 where it continues at a fast pace, following the Ryan family with Maura at its head, as the try to fight off their rivals. I wont give away any of the story so as not to spoil the book for you, I will say that its a gripping read at times graphic and gruesome, just what you would expect from Martina Cole.
My favourite character in the book has to be Benny Ryan, the out of control nephew of Maura, he races through the book leaving a trail of destruction and leaving you wondering when will he push Maura too far with his behaviour. As mad and as violent as Benny is, with his liking for Airfix glue and cattle prods, the most gruesome part of the book revolves around the actions of Tony Dooley Snr as he seeks vengeance for the death of his son and also seeks answers for Maura. Watch out for the part about the acid.
Overall a great read, it would help to have read Dangerous Lady first but its not essential, another excellent book by this great writer Im now off to find another one of hers to read.
Ceck out my other reviews of Martina Cole
Martina Cole has been one of my favourite british authors since stumbling across them after a recommendation by a friend when I was off work for a while. Wow this author has knocked my socks off. OK shes not up there with Sharespeare, Keats, Browning the list goes on. But Martina writes what she knows about and those of you who have read her books will know they are not for the fainthearted, so the review; well heregoes my first book review. Maura's Game is a sequel to her book Dangerous Lady, and although it may be a little useful to have read that one first it is not a pre-requisite. Martina has a writing style that keeps you gripped and has a turn and twist in every chapter. The books starts with someone very close to her been blown up in a car bombing and follows on with the leading lady Maura the head of the powerful london Ryan family trying to get behind who would want her dead (turns out later in the book it was meant for her). I dont want to spoil the book too much for you but the plot mainly revolves around a mad ex associate trying to get his revenge on the ryan family for "allegedly" killing his wife and ordering a hit on him whilst he was in prison, and this is where the skulduggery and treachery starts. There are some particularly violent parts in the book which had even me feeling a little shaken, but what Martina Cole tries to do is show it how it is. What I do find odd though is that in everyone of her books she has a leading lady as the main charachter and comes through adversity no matter what and in the majority of her books (bar one but i wont spoil it for you if youre planning to read her books). The ryan family are very close knit run by a matriachal type woman who, at the beginning of the book, hates her daughter and then for no seemingly apparant reason forgives her for all the terrible crimes she has committed, ah well thats family for you. Although Thi
s book is mainly dark and depressing and openingly shocking at times, Martina has the ability to bring in humour and at times although shocked at the stuff I was reading I actually laughed out loud at times. There are some very colourful characters in this book (as in all of her books) one of them being her "one paving stone short of a patio" nephew Benny Ryan who has a penchant for gluing peoples eyes together with airfix glue and carrying a cattle prod around at all times, and her treahcerous niece carla whom I wont give too much away on so as not to spoil your reading. Overall Martina Cole books in general can be read in a day and a half, Maura's Game being a 405 page offering. Very easy reading you can put it down and then pick it up a week later and still have the gist of whats going on. She has a ggod writing style that doesnt cause you to tax your brain too much, always a bonus as books are primarily for enjoyment, she has a knack of drawing you into her characters and even feel sympathy them even though they have carried out heinous crimes. A truly talented writer, and most of her books have made it into the bestsellers list in this country she is a writer that I personally hope will be around for a few years to come. As I said this is my first book review so im sure there will be criticisms, but all constructive criticism will be welcomed greatly. Thank you for the time you have taken to read this.
Maura Ryan was the queen of the criminal underworld when she pulled off the most audacious golAd bullion robbery of all time. Since then she's retired from a life of crime to be with the only man she's ever loved.