Today I am thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for Born Bad by Heather Burnside. The first book in the gritty Manchester Trilogy, this baby will transport you into 80s gangland, tug at your heartstrings, and stoke the fires of rage all in a matter of pages. If you like complex family dramas with a healthy does of crime, this is an absolute must read.
Title: Born Bad
Author: Heather Burnside
Publisher: Aria Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2017
Genre: Fiction, Crime Fiction, Gangland Lit
Themes: Friendship, Family, Relationships, Crime
My Rating: 4/ 5
Brother and sister Peter and Adele Robinson never stood a chance. Dragged up by an alcoholic, violent father, and a weak, beaten mother, their childhood in Manchester only prepared them for a life of crime and struggle. But Adele is determined to break the mould. She studies hard at school and, inspired by her beloved grandmother Joyce, she finally makes a successful life for herself on her own.
Peter is not so lucky. Getting more and more immersed in the murky world of crime and gangs, his close bonds with Adele gradually loosen until they look set to break altogether.
But old habits die hard, and one devastating night, Adele is forced to confront her violent past. Dragged back into her worst nightmares, there’s only one person she can turn to when her life is on the line – her brother Peter. After all, blood is thicker than water…
I don’t normally enjoy family dramas, but Born Bad managed to break through my crusty outer shell and niggle it’s way into my heart. Within the first few pages I was willing to hand over all of my sympathy to Adele and her mother, my screw-you spirit to Peter, and my unfettered disdain towards Tommy. And the best part was that I never once felt as though their stories were tiresome.
I appreciated Adele’s grit and determination when it came to rising above her circumstances, and yet she embodied everything that can be read into the nature versus nurture argument. My heart broke a little every time she got into a fight at school or had a row with a boyfriend, and even more so whenever she lost patience with her mother. Regardless, Adele’s experiences really caused me to think critically about how often we take the time to be with our extended families, how close we are with our siblings, and the ways in which we talk to our parents.
I was a little repulsed by Peter at the start but by the end of the book my opinions of him were completely changed. And the best part was that I never once felt pity for him. Despite the horrid things that Peter endured at the hands of both his father and a particularly judgemental community, he remained strong (okay. maybe spiteful is the right word) and always managed to make the best of his situation. It seemed natural that he not only fell into the world of crime but also that he excelled at it.
As crappy as many of the situations and circumstances were, every page oozed realism and believability as the Robinson family was painstakingly relatable. From Tommy’s drinking to Peter’s living rough in a slum, it hurts to know that these are every day occurrences for a great many people. Now, that’s not to say that growing up in a dysfunctional and violent family is any excuse for resorting to a life of crime, but it certainly makes all of their decisions understandable.
I will say though, that given the extensive focus on the Robinson family, with only a few forays in Peter’s life crime, that Born Bad is the foundational novel for the crime series that follows. It’s deep, gritty, and uncomfortable in all of the best ways. It pulls you in, makes you think, and spits you out the other side raw and emotional.
If you like a solid series with painfully real characters, I highly recommend Born Bad and the Manchester Trilogy. Read it crime lovers, and get a closer look at those mitigating circumstances!
About The Author
Heather Burnside spent her teenage years on one of the toughest estates in Manchester and she draws heavily on this background as the setting for many of her novels. After taking a career break to raise two children Heather enrolled on a creative writing course. Heather now works full-time on her novels from her home in Manchester, which she shares with her two grown-up children.
Many thanks to Victoria Joss at Aria Fiction for inviting me to join in this tour and for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.