When Adele’s brother, Peter, gets banged up for GBH she reluctantly agrees to run his nightclub, The Golden Bell. Strong opposition from Peter’s thuggish number two, Glynn, who isn’t best pleased about answering to a woman, isn’t the only challenge she faces.
The Manchester club scene of the 1990s is a dangerous place, at the mercy of illicit protection rackets and rampaging gangs, and, despite Adele’s efforts to keep everything legal, the club is beginning to feel like a poisoned chalice.
Meanwhile, Glynn is playing his own ruthless game, and when a savage gang attack has devastating consequences, Adele is ready to walk away. But Peter has always stood by her, and she owes him big time. Besides, where else would an ex-con find work? And someone has to protect her brother’s empire from his enemies. Right now, Adele knows she is the only one that Peter can trust, but the stakes may soon get too high…
‘Adele was standing at the bar of the Golden Bell chatting with her bar manager, Paula, when she noticed the time.
‘It’s ten past. Is Cindy due in tonight?’ she asked.
‘Yeah and it’s the second time she’s been late this week,’ said Paula, rolling her eyes in exasperation.
Adele nodded, saying nothing, but her face showed the anger she felt as she pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. Cindy’s tardiness wasn’t the only thing that was bothering her. Ever since Cindy had started seeing Glynn a few weeks ago, she had been taking more and more liberties. Adele was fed up with it, as were the bar staff, and she knew it was time to put a stop to Cindy’s impudent behaviour.
Another five minutes passed before Cindy drifted in amidst a haze of cheap, cloying perfume. She slowly undid her coat buttons in a tantalising fashion as she entered the bar area.
‘Can I have a word?’ asked Adele, the lines on her forehead forming a frown.
‘In a minute,’ said Cindy, unconcerned. ‘Let me just put my things in the back first.’
It was a while before Cindy emerged from the staff area behind the bar and Adele could see that her hair was newly teased and her lipstick had been reapplied. She tottered over to the bar on heels that were far too high, her short skirt clinging to her slim but shapely hips.
‘Yeah?’ she said, eyeing Adele through heavily made-up eyes and casually chewing gum with her mouth open.
Her blasé attitude irritated Adele. ‘What time do you call this?’ she asked.
Cindy glanced at the clock, seemingly unperturbed, then looked back at Adele. ‘It’s OK, I cleared it with Glynn,’ she said, looking down her nose at Adele before lifting her chin and walking away with her head held high. Paula tutted then looked at Adele for her reaction.
Adele could feel her temper rising at the girl’s insolence. ‘Hang on a minute!’ she shouted. ‘Don’t walk away when I’m speaking to you.’
Cindy swung round, her expression one of scorn. ‘What?’ she asked, with attitude.
Adele tried to remain calm as she addressed her, meeting her eyes and keeping her voice slow and even. ‘Firstly, I hadn’t finished speaking to you, and it’s bad manners to walk away when you’re being addressed.’
‘Soz, thought you’d finished,’ said Cindy, before flicking the gum to the other side of her mouth with her tongue protruding crudely.
‘Secondly,’ said Adele, raising her voice slightly, ‘I’d appreciate it if you didn’t come to work with a mouth full of gum. It doesn’t look very professional. Can you remove it, please?’
Cindy tutted then pulled the gum from her mouth and walked to the back of the bar where she dropped it into the bin. ‘It’s like being at bloody school,’ she muttered while her back was to Adele.
Adele waited for her to walk back towards her then continued. ‘Thirdly, if you’re going to be late you need to clear it with—’
But before she could complete the sentence, she felt a presence at her side. It was Glynn, who rudely cut in. ‘It’s OK, I gave her permission to come in late tonight,’ he said.
Adele turned to face him. ‘Then why weren’t either Paula or myself told about it?’ she asked, the question sounding more like an accusation.
‘Must have slipped my mind,’ he said. ‘No worries, it’s no biggie.’
Then he walked away without giving Adele a chance to respond and winked saucily at Cindy, who preened smugly. Adele was livid, and for a few moments, she stared at Glynn’s back then at Cindy, who was wearing a half-smirk. ‘In future, you ask either Paula or myself for permission to arrive late, not Glynn,’ she said.
Adele didn’t hang around to hear Cindy’s response; she was too intent on having words with Glynn. She dashed after him as he headed through the back door and towards the upstairs offices.
Catching a glimpse of his heel as he rounded the bend in the stairway, she shouted, ‘Oy, I want a word with you.’
She met him on the stair landing. ‘What’s your problem?’ he asked, his face scrunched up in irritation.
‘In future, when Cindy asks for permission to arrive late, can you send her to either myself or Paula?’ she snapped.
‘What’s the problem?’ he retaliated. ‘She was only a few minutes late, for Christ’s sake.’
‘The problem is that you’ve undermined me in front of the staff. She shouldn’t be led to believe that she can do whatever she pleases; it’s not good for the morale of the rest of the team.’
‘Have you heard yourself? They’re a bunch of fuckin’ barmaids, not the board of directors.’
‘It doesn’t matter what they are,’ she vented. ‘Discipline is very important for running a tight ship.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ he muttered, turning away from her as though her argument was insignificant.
‘Don’t you dare turn your back on me!’ she yelled. ‘That girl has been getting away with murder since she started seeing you.’
He turned back to face her and grinned. ‘Now we’re getting to the real problem, aren’t we, Adele? Good old-fashioned jealousy. The real reason you’re pissed off is because me and Cindy have got something good going on. And you can’t stand it.’
‘Pfffft,’ she hissed. ‘Don’t flatter yourself. She’s bloody welcome to you. I don’t give a shit who you’re shagging! But what I do care about is when staff think they can take the piss. And you’re helping her to do it.
‘We can’t be seen to be showing favouritism; it isn’t fair on the rest of the staff. So from now on, I think you need to remember who the boss is around here. You might be running my brother’s dodgy protection racket, but when it comes to running the Golden Bell, or any of Peter’s other businesses, for that matter, you have no authority whatsoever.’
By this time she was shaking with anger, the words spilling from her in a torrent of hatred.
‘Jesus, woman, what’s wrong with you?’ he mocked on noticing her shaking hands. ‘Do yourself a favour; go and take a look at the state of yourself in the mirror. Then see if you can pretend you’re not jealous.’
Then he barged past her and made his way back down the stairs, but as he passed her, he hissed, ‘Fuckin’ sexually frustrated if you ask me.’
Adele stared after him, speechless. Her cheeks reddened with anger and humiliation, and for a few moments, she stood transfixed. How dare he? Her anger was also directed at herself. Why did she let him get to her? He wasn’t worth it.
She marched up to her office, resisting the temptation to down a measure of brandy. Instead, she sat at her desk for a good while ruminating about what had just happened.
Adele was fuming, and it took her some time to calm down. She was sick to death of Glynn thinking he could walk all over her. It was about time he realised who was the boss. As she sat there raging about her confrontation with Glynn, she decided it was time for her to make a stand. She was going to introduce some changes that would really put him in his place and let him know who was in charge once and for all.
The last in ‘The Manchester Trilogy’ series ‘Vendetta’, follows Adele’s life running her brother’s club in Manchester and the events that follow his release from prison. The book reads well as a standalone, although I have read ‘Blood Ties’, the second book in the series.
The writing style, which is often in the passive tense, jars with the action-packed plot and pace. Some of the characters in this final novel, as with the previous book are stereotypical. Despite its weaknesses, the pacing is fast, and it’s absorbing and easy to read. As a crime novel, it contains violence, but nothing gratuitous and the often unlikeable characters fit with the gritty, edgy lifestyle it portrays. There are no real surprises, but the ending is positive. and one that Adele deserves.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Heather Burnside is a Manchester-based author who formerly worked in credit control and is a qualified Member of the Institute of Credit Management. After taking a career break to raise a family, she swapped credit control for writing and decided to study for a writing diploma.
Heather had articles featured in several popular UK magazines before setting up a writing services business, offering copywriting and proofreading services to a range of clients. During that time she also wrote a number of non-fiction books on behalf of clients.
In 2014 Heather published her first Manchester based crime thriller, ‘Slur’, book 1 of the Riverhill Trilogy. She followed ‘Slur’ with book 2, ‘A Gangster’s Grip’, which focuses on the inter-gang rivalry of 90s Manchester, and the concluding book, ‘Danger by Association’.
Adele Robinson is locked up – convicted for the murder of her abusive father. She quickly realises that she’ll have to play it tough if she’s going to survive, and soon gains a reputation for standing her ground.
Meanwhile, her brother Peter is building his criminal empire on the outside – running protection rackets, seedy nightclubs and all manner of schemes to make a fast buck. He soon comes to the attention of, not only the police, but also Manchester’s rival gangs, and a turf war breaks out.
And when things start to get bloody, only Adele can step in to protect the family business. Will she get out in time to save Peter? After all, blood is thicker than water, and when family’s in trouble, you can’t look the other way.
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‘Blood Ties’ isn’t a sophisticated thriller, it’s base, gritty and often violent. It focuses on a crime family based in Manchester, one sibling Adele, is imprisoned for brutally killing her abusive father and on the outside, her younger brother Peter is furthering his organised crime empire.
Part one focuses on Adele’s time in prison, and how she copes, I’m not keen on prison drama, but this did show Adele’s character development and possibly introduced other characters that she may meet in a future book perhaps?Peter’s empire building makes him fall out with old friends as he forms new alliances. Protection and revenge dominate Peter’s life, and he discovers how ruthless his new business associates are.
Part two focuses on Adele’s life immediately after her release, and with the limited choices left to her with a prison record, she is obligated to work for her brother. She finds life on the outside is challenging and just as dangerous as imprisonment.
This story is easy to read if a little stereotypical in parts. The pacing is good, and it doesn’t rely on graphic violence. I think it would be more exciting written in predominately active tense, rather than relying on passive descriptions.
I received a copy of this book from Aria Fiction via NetGalley in return for an honest review.