Quite a few crime fiction books use the life and crimes of a Gangster type as their central premise, with a sideline of the impact that has on family and friends. BAD BLOOD looks at this scenario with the affected firmly at the centre of the action.
Starting out with a series of chapters that introduce a central character or scenario, readers will need to pay attention. As they will to the prologue which looks at the past of central character Harry Woods and his young, pregnant wife. In the present time, Harry's much loved wife is dead, his children grown and the family ties weakened. Once those introductions and the set-up are out of the way, the action moves forward rapidly bringing the family back together after estrangement, stretching their relationships in new directions, with new tensions.
Each of the characters in this book - Harry, his four children, their partners, his best mate, get equal billing at some point. The story revolves around damage, past decisions, power and control. It's somehow less about the long-time criminality of Harry, and more about the impacts that a life spent on the edge has had on all of them. It's also about decisions - the choice that Kelly makes to come back to the family fold, the choice that Nathan makes to try to live a different life. It contrasts those choices with the lack of conscious choice that Christopher and Evie seem to have in who they are or what they will become. There's a series of questions posed throughout the action about the ramifications of choice (or lack thereof), although that's based in a solid shell of action, tension, threat and violence.
After reading somewhere that author Casey Kelleher was strongly influenced by a well-known author of these sorts of Gangster centric novels, I was particularly intrigued to find how engaging BAD BLOOD was. I've struggled with the influencing authors work in the past, but I think the humour, the strong characterisations, and the less than black and white resolution here made this a strong, believable story. Whilst there's no holding back from the brutality of this life, it was balanced with some basic human decency and care. Whilst Harry might have a questionable moral compass when it comes to drugs, and criminal activities, he's a man who loves his kids, and struggles to this day with the fate of his wife. As clichéd as it might seem - it works in BAD BLOOD. There's something very realistic about the portrayal and the way that it does not make any attempt to explain, justify or excuse what is basically human nature.