The Game by Linda Calvey: Packed with drama, menace, and some bone-crunching violence – book review –

Ruthless gang boss Ruby Murphy is at the top of her game despite the recent murder of Archie, her beloved husband and partner in crime, at their luxurious villa near Marbella.

The Game by Linda Calvey
The Game by Linda Calvey

For Ruby, who has built a crooked empire stretching from Spain, across Europe and all the way back to her roots in London’s tough East End, family is everything... but who can be trusted now and who is out for blood?

When you have spent eighteen years behind bars – earning the dubious title of Britain’s longest-serving female prisoner – doing extensive research for her hard-hitting Ruby Murphy Series was never going to be top of Linda Calvey’s to-do list.

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Now happily going straight and leading a quiet life, Calvey, who was convicted of murder and shared a prison with the likes of Rose West and Myra Hindley, is finding new fame as a writer of pulsating gangland thrillers, following her 2019 memoir, The Black Widow, which was a highly acclaimed bestseller.

As Calvey’s friend and undisputed Queen of Crime Fiction, Martina Cole, remarked in her foreword to The Locksmith, the first book in this wickedly entertaining series: ‘Some writers write what they know. Linda writes what she lived.’

And having been at the heart of the criminal world herself, everything Calvey lived certainly shines through in these fast-paced, addictive thrillers as we are back swept into the turbulent life of Ruby who has become the queen bee of a world of glamour, danger, gangsters, hitmen and villains.

When 40-year-old Ruby’s husband, Archie, is brutally murdered by safe robbers in front of both herself and the couple’s 18-year-old daughter Cathy, Ruby is distraught. Archie was the only man Ruby had ever given her heart to but, with an empire to run, she has no time now to shed tears for him.

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With her razor-sharp instincts and skills, Ruby has spent years fronting the ‘company,’ with her husband’s twin brother Alfie and his father Lloyd always watching from the sidelines, and now she is in a partnership with a Russian drugs baron, dealing with some of Europe’s most brutal crooks.

Convinced that there was more to Archie’s death than just a robbery gone wrong, and aware that criminals and cartel bosses are now circling her like sharks, she is determined to keep Cathy safe and sends her back to London to stay with her aunt and uncle far from the violence and secrets in Spain.

As Ruby fights off the affections of business partner, Vladimir, as well as attacks from local gangs, she knows the game is becoming too dangerous to stay in forever. But she is finding it increasingly difficult to know who to trust, and to recognise just who is the enemy.

And then Cathy – who has led a sheltered life at an exclusive international school and has always been protected from the true nature of the family ‘business’ – gets into serious trouble back home in London. Angry Ruby has vowed that she will always protect her only child, whatever the cost, and if you come for the legendary crime queen, you had better not miss.

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Calvey delivers another blood-soaked rollercoaster ride as Ruby faces the challenges of widowhood, parenthood and a world of crime that grows more dangerous and fearsomely fickle with every passing day.

At the heart of all the action and scheming is Ruby herself, a fascinating anti-heroine and ruthless criminal empire-builder who, by turns, can be strong, loyal, loving... and totally unforgiving. As a woman among brutal men, Ruby has to constantly watch her back... she has learned the hard way that the path to power is to keep her emotions in check and never give her opponents any sign of weakness.

And what impresses most is not just Calvey’s clever use of her gripping insider knowledge of the world of crime, but her storytelling skills and her ability to create superbly drawn characters… good people and bad people who provide a unique insight into how villains are made and how they operate.

Packed with drama, menace, some bone-crunching violence and heartbreaking emotions, The Game is another hair-raising helping of Calvey’s gangland fiction real-deal... it would be a crime to miss it!

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(Welbeck, paperback, £8.99)