The Good Life

Written by Martina Cole

Review written by Denise Danks

Denise Danks lives in London. She is a former journalist and managing director of a technology news agency. . She wrote the Georgina Powers series of crime novels, two of which were shortlisted for the CWA Macallan Gold Dagger 1999/2000.

The Good Life
RRP: £19.99
Released: October 6, 2014

Pace. Tick. Tick. Tick. Plot. Tick. Characters. Tick.


Martina Cole is the UK’s best selling crime author of all time.


In 2011, Neilson Bookscan listed her as the first British female adult-audience novelist to exceed the 50m sales mark since its records began.  Her sales in the 21sC’ first decade topped  6m (sold value £41m) putting, her 21st  in the top 100 .

All Cole’s novels, set in London gangland, inevitably rocket to the top of The Sunday Times Best Seller list.  She rewards her fans with a book a year. She writes in longhand.  She is a publishing phenomenon.


She is in a minority of one having also, arguably, created her own genre of crime fiction. 


The writer of choice for those detained at Her Majesty’s pleasure,  her fan base, they say, lives mostly within the boundary of the M25.  Whoever they are, readers return again and again to Cole’s novels for her authentic, exciting and uncompromising stories of working class antiheroes, strong female protagonists, and their families, whose main business is crime with lashings of sex.


 It is the love and despair within these families that gives her stories piquancy. Cole, a single mother twice over, understands poverty and aspiration. You know, too, that the most horrible scenes do not come from her imagination.


Her hoodlums are brutal, business-like and uncompromising but Cole never forgets to give them, and the people who love them, often to death, an emotional battering. Her dry, mordant wit is always in play when some evil ‘bastard’ gets his come uppance or some gold digging ‘bird’ is left wanting.  There is never a dud note on that score.


In The Good Life, her 21st  novel,  top ’face’ and married man, Cain Moran, the charismatic son of a prostitute, falls for a virginal, young, beauty, Jenny Riley, whose mother, a rollicking character, is also a prostitute. Moran’s wife is their nemesis. She is never going to give up her well-earned, comfortable  ‘good life, provided for her and her son by Moran’s ill gotten gains, and let her goodie two shoes rival enjoy it instead.  Through her scheming and his rivals enmity, Moran ends up inside and Jenny has to pay the ticket price that dangles from the so-called good life.  The big question is will Moran’s crime fiefdom and their love survive?  Will the desire for that good life still drive their ambitions or will love triumph over all?


The Good Life is a bittersweet tale that nevertheless gives the reader all the essential Cole components. Pace. Tick. Tick. Tick. Plot.Tick. Characters. Tick. Humour. Tick. Sex. Tick. Glamour.Tick.  Brutality. Tick. Torture. Tick. Murder. Tick. Love. Tick.  It’s like a TV boxset that won’t let you go and it  took me just two days to finish it, stiff drink in hand. 


That said, I found the virginal Jenny a bit too perfect and nice for a Cole woman. She showed some spirit but she could not compete with Moran’s insane wife, who stole all their scenes.  The story does slow eventually and repeats a little towards the end but, in this novel, we may be observing something new, Martina Cole, dare I say it,  in a more reflective mood.


Will we see the characters that survive again? Who knows, but I  think they richly deserve another outing. 


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