Book review: The Faithless by Martina Cole

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Cynthia Tailor is an enigma to her family ... her dissatisfaction with her lot, her psychopathic restlessness and, most of all, her inability to love have had a poisonous effect on them all.

Cruel, taunting, bitter and insanely jealous, Cynthia has left a trail of innocent victims over two decades, and every one of those who should be her nearest and dearest has a reason to fear her.

The question is ... just how far can they be pushed?

Undisputed queen of the criminal underworld, Martina Cole is back with another white knuckle ride through the tempestuous underworld of dangerously dysfunctional families.

Hard-hitting, down to earth and utterly compelling, The Faithless serves up a nail-biting and claustrophobic thriller with Cole’s trademark psychological twists and turns.

Cole excels at ‘evil’ and her central character – the manipulative and malign Cynthia – is as cold and calculating as we have come to expect from her gallery of rogues.

Cynthia is the eldest daughter of hard-working and likeable couple Jack and Mary Callahan who have raised their two daughters with love and laughter at their home on a council estate in Hackney.

The couple are as bewildered at Cynthia’s scheming and cruelty as her equable and long-suffering husband Jimmy Tailor.

Jimmy’s accountancy job in the city has given Cynthia her dream home in a smart semi in Ilford but no-one knows better than him that his wife has a ‘terrible kink’ in her nature, a mixture of loathing for her impecunious childhood, a corrosive covetousness and an incapacity to find any joy in life.

Her colossal temper can erupt at any moment and when it does, she’s ‘like a madwoman.’

From the first chapter of The Faithless, we understand that Cynthia will stop at nothing to get what she wants – lying, cheating, betrayal and violence are all part of her repertoire.

The casualties from her single-minded goal to have a ‘perfect’ life are her husband, her parents, her younger sister Celeste and Cynthia’s two children, Gabby and James Junior.

From the early 1980s and into the present, we follow the few fortunes and many misfortunes of the Callahans and Tailors as Cynthia wreaks havoc on the hopes and dreams of those who come between this dominatrix and her never-ending ambitions.

Cynthia’s vicious war of attrition takes us into familiar Cole territory where we rub shoulders with thugs, crooks and drug dealers who are ready to do anything for money.

Inevitably, tragedy strikes and the ones who suffer most are Cynthia’s own children whose legacy will be a lifetime of pain...

Disturbing, gritty and so real that it hurts, The Faithless sees one of Britain’s best-selling authors on top form.

(Headline, hardback, £19.99)