It’s difficult to be original.

Still, when a quick search throws up a minimum of three books sharing the same title as this one, I feel a more original option must have been available.

Unfortunately, my initial and final response to this book can be summed up with one word: meh.

What’s it about?

Kelly’s marriage is a prison; her controlling husband, Christos, tracks her every move, including filming her inside her own house. If she tries to leave, she believes he’ll never let her see her children again.

Adding insult to (frequent) injury, Christos has taken a mistress, Sylvie, who is desperate to step into Kelly’s shoes. It seems to be a stalemate, but then one of Christos’ ships docks in London containing a secret cargo that will change lives forever…

What’s it like?

A little bland with too many gangsters. Within a few pages, the style just wasn’t gripping me. This is one example that just somehow bored me:

‘the piles of paper on his desk had mated with those on the shelves and produced more piles that now occupied the two chairs this side of the desk’.

I don’t know. It’s scene setting, I get that, and revealing of character and other stuff, but it’s still just…meh.

Meanwhile, it transpires that, although Christos is all-powerful, another character (aka ‘The Wolf’) is poised to take revenge – and possibly his enemy’s empire. Both men are horrid, brutal and empty. I can’t root for either of them and was largely disinterested.

Final thoughts

There are some twists along the way but, (and this might not surprise you by now,) I didn’t really like those either. I’m not even sure why. Possibly my dislike of gangstery novels (first discovered when enduring Martina Cole’s repetitive story ‘The Family’) simply poisoned my view of everything else but…seriously, outside of channel 5 made-for-TV drama, where in the world do these kind of preposterous shenanigans occur?

That said, as I typed those words I wondered…would some people make that criticism of plots and motives found in Sophie Hannah’s novels? Very likely, yes, and I love those.

So I’m not not recommending this book. The plot ticks along briskly with plenty of drama, a hefty dose of villainy and a surprisingly resilient central character. Everything is resolved exactly right, considering the characters involved, and it’s mildly interesting to read a crime book featuring a customs officer as the main investigative force.

I think this is a clever and realistically written book that simply doesn’t appeal to me – it’s the kind of really gritty, gangstery crime story I just don’t enjoy, although that makes it sound a lot more rough than it actually is. (Violence is typically hinted at or referred to rather than witnessed – with one shockingly brutal exception early on.) There’s a range of potentially interesting characters and the ending is clever, and as I’m writing this I keep flicking through the pages to try to understand what went wrong because I really feel like I should have liked it…but I didn’t.


‘Until Death’,
Ali Knight,
2013, Hodder & Stoughton, paperback