The Ties that Bind by Erin Kelly

the ties that bindBrighton still rocks…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Aspiring true crime writer Luke Considine is looking for the perfect case to form the basis of his first book. When he is cheated out of the story he has been working on and at the same time has a bad relationship break-up, he moves to Brighton on a whim, and there he comes across the perfect subject – Joss Grand, onetime gangster, now philanthropist and local legend. And to make his story even more interesting, the long-ago murder of Joss’s partner in crime remains unsolved. But though Joss may be old now, he still has an aura of danger and those who know him warn Luke to steer clear…

As Luke investigates, he stirs up old memories and soon finds his life in danger. Will he be able to get to the truth before it’s too late? And is the danger coming from more than one direction – if so, whom can he trust? The plot has all the elements of the standard thriller, but the quality of the characterisation and the strong sense of place lift it well above average.

Luke is a likeable and credible lead, and the breakdown of his relationship with his lover Jem is portrayed very believably. I found it refreshing that Kelly managed to include a gay relationship without allowing ‘the gay lifestyle’ to become the main focus of the book, as tends to happen all too often. Instead, as Jem becomes ever more out of control and threatening, Kelly concentrates on the psychology of him as a man, rather than as a gay man. And Luke stays realistic all the way through – he doesn’t suddenly turn into an all-action superhero in the last few chapters.

Brighton's iconic West Pier
Brighton’s iconic West Pier

The character of Joss is nicely ambiguous. Although he undoubtedly did some very bad things when he was a young man, he has lived a seemingly respectable life for many years, using his wealth to fund many projects around Brighton, so that he is now seen as a pillar of the community. But that wealth, though earned via legitimate enterprises, grew out of the dirty money that Joss made running protection rackets in the ’60s. So the question is one of redemption – can decades of good works wipe out the crimes of the past? That’s assuming that Joss is clean now – or could his legitimate businesses be hiding something darker? Old and ill though he is, there’s no doubt that Joss still enjoys knowing that people fear him…

Erin Kelly
Erin Kelly

The descriptions of Brighton, both present day and in the sense Kelly gives us of the past, are convincing. We see the touristy seaside town with its gaudy lights and seafront entertainments, but we get to see a darker underbelly too; especially in the Brighton of the ’50s and ’60s – Kelly directly alludes to Greene’s Brighton Rock, and the feeling of simmering violence amongst the Brighton gangsters is set well into the context of the time of the Kray twins’ rule in London’s East End.

All round, I found this an enjoyable and very well written thriller – good plot, strong descriptive writing and great characterisation. Highly recommended, and thanks again to Cleo at Cleopatra Loves Books whose excellent review brought this book and author to my attention.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

40 thoughts on “The Ties that Bind by Erin Kelly

  1. FictionFan – This certainly ticks a lot of my personal checklist boxes. And I couldn’t possibly agree more about how refreshing it is when a gay relationship is portrayed in a novel without being one of the main points of focus in it. I hope we get to the point one day when it just doesn’t matter the gender of the person one loves. I shall have to move, re-shuffle and sque-e-e-eze my TBR list to include this.


  2. I must say the cover of the book is extremely…captivating! Now this Joss character is an interest. Just how old is he, would you say?

    The West Pier look like a castle! Or something close, I think. (The author has purple hair, too.)


    • I think it might be another pic of the West Pier, though I don’t quite get what the pillars are. He was in his 90s if I remember aright…it’s a couple of weeks since I finished it so it’s already fading…

      Sadly, it doesn’t lool like that anymore – more or less destroyed by fire a few years ago. Which is a sad coincidence since the news has just reported that another of our great old piers is on fire at the moment. (She has a wicked glint in her eye too…)


      • Yes, books don’t stay too longly-long in my mind either. There are some exceptions. (I even forgot Woola had ten legs!) 90’s pretty old.

        That is such rotten luck, for sure. (You have to admire that about her.)


      • Is FictionFan not a PierFan? Is that a confession? Ha ha. Sounds great, but I ‘ve another earlier one of hers to read first – yes, I know they’re standalones but I still like to read them in order, when possible. (Strange book foible!)


        • Haha! No, I love piers – though this book made the West Pier sound a bit scary! Oh, I wish I was controlled enough to read in order – even with series I have a bad habit of jumping in in the middle. But I’ll definitely be back-tracking on Erin Kelly’s books…


          • I have on occasion broken my rule when in my town with two bookshops (Waterstones, and, yes I know I’m pushing it, WHSmith – I refuse to include Tesco!) I can’t get the one I want, and make do with the next in an author’s output. Which I will read, irritably. Actually, our charity shops are best, after Waterstones. Mary’s Meals charge 50p, and as it’s a locally run charity, that’s where I send mine when the stacks need a clear-out.


            • You’re one better than us – the only ‘bookshop’ we have is WH Smith and it’s so bad I haven’t bought a book there in years. I fear I’m addicted to my Kindle, so first stop for books for me is the dreaded Amazon – I may not approve of some of their practices but I’m hypocritical enough to use them anyway… 😉


            • Don’t we all? (use amazon) But I wish they weren’t so blatant about their tax avoidance. Or preferably not do it all. Plus I saw a programme and they treated their workers dreadfully. They must be making ££s million by the minute, worldwide. I wish someone more ethical was as good as them at what they do.


  3. This is sitting on my shelf waiting for me to get round to it. I loved her first and third novels but was very disappointed by her second. I hope this is going to live up to your review.


  4. Sounds a good one – I have a very soft spot for Brighton – I used to escape there when I lived in London.


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