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4.5 out of 5 stars
Dangerous Lady
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on 19 December 2004
Martina Cole attracts quite a lot of press coverage and her books rocket up the best-seller lists. This is her first published novel, establishing something of a pattern. She will revisit this format in later novels, and will bring the heroine (or is that villain) back in a subsequent book ("Maura's Game").
The story, essentially, follows the changing fortunes of the Ryan family, in particular their only daughter, Maura. When we first meet them, it's 1950, and the Ryan's occupy a cockroach infested slum in London's Notting Hill. Mother is about to give birth to yet another child, all her boys waiting outside the bedroom, her good-for-only-one-thing husband out boozing again. This time it's a girl ... and young Maura will grow up to be loved and spoiled by all her brothers.
She'll also grow up to witness her eldest brother, Michael, become king of London's underworld ... and to eclipse him by becoming its empress! In the process, we follow her trials and tribulations, pains and abuses, romance and loss.
Not a crime novel - and certainly not a whodunit - this is really a family saga, covering half a century of the Ryan siblings' rise through the criminal leagues. In places there are some keen observations of working class life, at times there are some dreadful clichés, cardboard characters, and some very obvious plot lines.
At times it's very obviously a first novel - Martina Cole has learned her craft well in the last dozen years or so and has tightened up her writing. The first half of the book is conveyed in a series of episodic snap-shots of the most significant events in Maura's life: once she begins to enter adulthood and assume a role in the family business, it becomes more focussed on her. Some of the elements are clichés, some extracted from real life crime. But it's a well-paced, engaging book.
This is not, as I say, a crime novel, so don't buy it thinking you'll be trying to work out who the killer is, or whatever. This is a family saga, one which takes a walk on the darker side, and it's an enjoyable, undemanding read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I have quite enjoyed some of Martina Cole's books, but had not read this, her first, until now. In this particular edition she writes a little about her own background, and explains her experience in the chosen small area she chooses to write about IE London/ Essex crime/ prostitution etc scene. This is the most interesting part.

The story, summarised well by other reviewers, is fine, but the characters are unlikeable, and fall into the usual Cole stereotypes. The abortion scene could be quite distressing for the unwary. Generally the book, like all her others, is good light holiday reading, nothing to spend a lot of time thinking about, and makes for a fast, easy read. It's not great literature, but does not pretend to be.

I wasn't especially gripped by the story, and frankly couldn't care less what happens next - "Maura's Game" is on a large pile of books lent to me for summer reading, but I certainly won't be rushing off to read it next.

Borrow it if you can, buy it if you must, but don't expect to find yourself wanting to read it again and again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 3 November 2012
This book was written in 1992 and the family saga starts in the 1950s. Having read some of the reviews that are already on here it seems to be a "Marmite book". Unfortunately - I can't stand Marmite.

There is a lot of cliché in here and the only way I can think of to describe it is Eastenders. It's just a diary of events of a crime family but has no plotline pulling you through, making you want to turn the pages. And there was no character that I was rooting for, cared about or even liked - so that also makes it hard going.

I suppose if I were stuck somewhere with no entertainment it would be something to pass the time. But I read for pleasure and, at around page 150, I realised I wasn't enjoying it and didn't see the point of carrying on.

Was a bit disappointment (I've loved books of Martina's before) but if, as others have said, this is an early book of hers then maybe it's understandable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I read 'Ladykiller' sometime ago and absolutely couldn't put that book down so decided to invest in another Martina Cole book and bought this one, her first. To be honest, I was very disappointed in it, probably because it didn't grip me from the first few pages like 'Ladykiller' did, it seemed to spend several chapters setting the scene of the family involved who were mafia types in the East End of London but it didn't hook me and I struggled to even finish the book as I didn't engage with any of the characters and didn't really care what happened to them!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 December 2004
Martina Cole attracts quite a lot of press coverage and her books rocket up the best-seller lists. This is her first published novel, establishing something of a pattern. She will revisit this format in later novels, and will bring the heroine (or is that villain) back in a subsequent book ("Maura's Game").
The story, essentially, follows the changing fortunes of the Ryan family, in particular their only daughter, Maura. When we first meet them, it's 1950, and the Ryan's occupy a cockroach infested slum in London's Notting Hill. Mother is about to give birth to yet another child, all her boys waiting outside the bedroom, her good-for-only-one-thing husband out boozing again. This time it's a girl ... and young Maura will grow up to be loved and spoiled by all her brothers.
She'll also grow up to witness her eldest brother, Michael, become king of London's underworld ... and to eclipse him by becoming its empress! In the process, we follow her trials and tribulations, pains and abuses, romance and loss.
Not a crime novel - and certainly not a whodunit - this is really a family saga, covering half a century of the Ryan siblings' rise through the criminal leagues. In places there are some keen observations of working class life, at times there are some dreadful clichés, cardboard characters, and some very obvious plot lines.
At times it's very obviously a first novel - Martina Cole has learned her craft well in the last dozen years or so and has tightened up her writing. The first half of the book is conveyed in a series of episodic snap-shots of the most significant events in Maura's life: once she begins to enter adulthood and assume a role in the family business, it becomes more focussed on her. Some of the elements are clichés, some extracted from real life crime. But it's a well-paced, engaging book.
This is not, as I say, a crime novel, so don't buy it thinking you'll be trying to work out who the killer is, or whatever. This is a family saga, one which takes a walk on the darker side, and it's an enjoyable, undemanding read.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 7 January 2008
This is the fourth Martina Cole novel I've read, and it's becoming a major chore. Having already read three of her books, the formulaic nature of them and the repetativeness is becoming more and more annoying. In fact, I doubt I shall bother to finish this one. As usual the book is packed with anachronisms and lazy research. The characters are the same in every book - the female lead who is stunning but doesn't know it; the male lead who is over six feet tall even at times in history when the average male height in tis country was about 5 foot 7; they have dazzling white, perfect teeth; as usual, there is the hard-working and wise Irish mother; yet again, we have the "hardest man in London" as the main male character... and so the list goes on. Okay, so this was Cole's's first novel, but why have all the others been exactly the same? Enough is enough - reading the same book over and over is a waste of my time, especially when there are far better on my shelves.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 23 April 2007
The development of the characters in this book is wonderful. You know that they all have evil sides to them, but you still can't help liking them (well most of them anyway!)

I've heard stories about the real 60s gangland environment and it was interesting to read a fictional account of what went on and how it changed over the decades. The author very cleverly bought in references to the Krays and Richardsons and the IRA to make the story seem as real as possible.

The grubby descriptions of day to day life were very vivid, particularly when the family were children and struggling to survive. It should be remembered that a lot of people lived like this without all of the criminality.

This was the first Martina Cole book I had read, it won't change my world and isn't a "great" book but it was a book which I keep reading at every small opportunity and I thoroughly enjoyed. I will read more of her books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2013
I had such high hopes starting this book - it seemed to press all the buttons - popular author - tv series' under her belt (though I hadn't seen them) & engaging story line. But I don't know. The writing seemed pedestrian & quite predictable & the characters utterly two-dimensional & unlikable. It took a great deal of willpower to finish the book, and I cannot bring myself to read the sequel... yet.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Not much I can add to what's already been written. Martina Cole is without doubt one of the best authors around. This was the second book of hers I'd read and it was every bit as good as Goodnight Lady, I've just started on The Ladykiller and that looks to be another winner. She writes epic tales with gritty realism and likeable characters. This one centres around Maura Ryan, the only daughter of a very large family living in West London. Maura suffers a terrible tragedy which makes her become cold and hard, although there's always still some of the warm innocent girl just under the surface. She joins her eldest brother, Michael, in his West End underworld activities and the two of them gradually take over the whole of London. Martina paints a picture of London where corruption is rife and the political undertones are scary but undoubtedly true.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2014
An interesting story. I enjoyed it but at times I felt it was a little far fetched. The content was very violent and went over the top in places. I have read other books by the same author which have been better.
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