Maura’s Game (2002) by Martina Cole is the follow-up to her novel Dangerous Lady.
Both books follow the story of the protagonist, the notorious gangster Maura Ryan. I haven’t read the first book but in this book, we meet Maura at a stage in her life where she has left behind her past in crime and has settled down with her boyfriend Terry. But she’s not going to remain in loved-up bliss for long. Foes from Maura’s past life come back to haunt her when they murder Terry and soon Maura finds herself back in the crime business with the Ryan family especially her brothers. The author manages to give us enough background from the previous book to ensure that this can be read as a standalone. We realise that Maura had once been pregnant with Terry’s child but fearing what the neighbours would think, her mother forced her to have an unsafe abortion which left her unable to give birth again.
I can’t say that I like Maura. Some of the things she does in this book are downright awful. But Cole did manage to write a very complex character in her because there is moments where you sort of do feel like you could like her if she wasn’t so involved in organizing murders. She has a gentle and generous side. She did look after her niece Carla and her nephew Joey very well and always stands up against Carla and her mother when they get homophobic about Joey. But then I remember who she is and the bigger picture and I can’t like her but I can certainly see her good qualities. It was quite difficult to find a member of the family to like in fairness and yet you still wanted to know what happened them even if you weren’t terribly worried what did. I did like Joey’s personality for a bit because he seemed fun and away from the vicious criminal underworld but then he showed his true colours more near the end and family friend Abdul seemed nice until he also showed his true colours. My favourite character was Sheila who was married to Maura’s brother Lee. She really just wanted to keep her children safe and didn’t want Lee or by consequence their children and her mixed up in it and I one million per cent agreed with her. She had a great personality. On one side she had a softer, kinder side but she was strong and tough when she needed to be and Lee certainly hadn’t married a doormat. I found her cool.
This book deals with a lot of issues from Cole’s signature style of tackling family dynamics in the criminal underworld as well as homophobia, racism and sexism. Her books are heavy and draining but also very realistic of life and that is always a breath of fresh air. She writes very honestly and that can be really scary to do. I love the way she tackles topics and issues head on. Also the dialogue is so spot-on and the characters are very developed.
To purchase Maura’s Game by Martina Cole go to:
And for more information about Martina Cole and her work go to: