When local crime boss Richard Goodwin is pulled from the river by his office it looks like suicide. But as his widow Tatiana feared, Rich collected enemies like poker chips, and half of Great Yarmouth’s criminal fraternity would have had reason to kill him.
Realising how little she knows about the man she married, Tatty seeks to uncover the truth about Rich’s death and take over the reins of the family business, overseeing a waterfront casino deal Rich hoped would put Yarmouth on the map.
Out of the shadows at last, it is Tatty’s time now, and she isn’t going to let Rich’s brother, or anyone else, stand in her way. But an American has been in town asking the right people the wrong questions, more bodies turn up, along with a brutal new gang. The stakes have never been higher.
With her family to protect, and a business to run, Tatty soon learns that power comes with a price .
This is the first book in a series dealing with the criminal underworld in Great Yarmouth. It’s safe to say that Time to Win isn’t going to win any awards from Visit Norfolk. The picture that Brett paints so vividly is of a tired, dirty, depressed town, full of corruption from the local authority to the Police and where the commercial activities of our protagonists are as much a front for money laundering as they are a means of entertainment for visitors and locals alike. Drugs and prostitution feature heavily and the whole Great Yarmouth vista is overlain with a wash of constant grey, dreary rainfall.
This is depression meets thug turned businessman. You can just imagine Ray Winstone as Richard Goodwin in the opening credits. Unfortunately, however, Richard Goodwin does not survive the opening credits. Dragged out of the river by police, this looks like it could have been a suicide, but his family know better.
Brett uses this death to lay bare the criminal dealings in which Goodwin was involved and to portray the impact that his death has on his family and his businesses. His widow, Tatania (Tatty) has hitherto existed in a haze of anti-depressants and vanity projects to keep her busy. But when Richard Goodwin dies, she recognises that it is up to her to make sure that no vacuum in the business is created and she sets out to take control before her rivals can get the better of the empire that she is taking over.
With the help of the trusty Frank, an enforcer who loves his garden, she embarks on a journey to lick her family into shape and ensure that no-one is left in any doubt as to who is in charge.
This is not a book where you are ever asked to care about the characters; there is not one with any redeeming features. Rather you are submerged in the squalid and seedy underbelly of crime – where drugs, murder and the cheapness of life are everyday pictures.
This is where I found myself looking for something more. After the body is dredged up in the opening scenes, there is no real mystery here. The focus is on how Tatty sets about taking over the business, no doubt in preparation for more novels to come.
Unfortunately, I did not find her a compelling character, nor was I wholly convinced by the narrative. These are people we should be very scared of, but in the end I wasn’t sure I could hold my lost interest in them because of the complete lack of anyone empathetic.
If you love harsh Brit grit noir, then this may well be for you. It is clearly the groundwork for a considerable saga, rather than a book with a beginning, middle and end. Nothing wrong with that, but there needs to be a little more for me to want to return for Book Two.
Time to Win was published by Corsair (Little Brown Book Group) on 27th April 2017