When Kyle Gordon hears that his mother is terminally ill he makes the journey back to his hometown for the first time in nearly two decades, only…home isn’t what it used to be. Kyle is shocked by the dilapidation that has befallen his town.
For nineteen years Kyle vowed to protect the people of his country, serving in the armed forces. On returning home he realises that there were those needing protection right on his own doorstep and it was from no foreign enemy but that of his own flesh and blood. For decades his own father, Frank Gordon, ran the small farming town through fear and crime. Now, the throne has been passed to Kyle’s younger brother, Graham, a man with no moral code.
Kyle had enlisted in the army to distance himself from his father’s chosen profession, and he’d not returned until now to keep his own young family from harm’s way. Through returning to support his ailing mother Kyle’s fears become reality—the lifelong feud between brothers is reignited and a dangerous bond is formed between his teenage daughter and her grandfather, Frank.
''What happened to this place?' Kyle asked the barman at the Bear and Stag.
The barman scanned his surroundings as if considering them for the first time before responding.'
I have been a fan of Aiden Thorn for a long time (see my review of his brilliant When the Music's Over at: https://www.ianayris.org/post/when-the-music-s-over-by-aidan-thorn-a-review )
Rival Sons is a tale of the Gordon brothers - Kyle, family man, ex-army and Graham, amoral, gangster, lunatic. With their mother desperately ill, Kyle returns to the family home after a lifetime away to care for her. Sounds simple. Except Kyle left on bad terms with his father - erstwhile gangland kingpin, Frank - and Graham has stepped neatly into his father's blood spattered shoes, adding his own little soupçon of drug-fuelled psychosis.
When Kyle humiliates Graham in one of the many violent episodes in the book - all brilliantly written - Graham naturally wants his brother to suffer for it. Graham Gordon is truly one of the most ruthless, unconscionable, dispicable characters I have ever read. And his revenge forces the reader into a place so dark you crave any kind of light, any kind of hope. But hope is in short supply in the world the Gordon's inhabit. The short quote above tells you all you need to know about the atmosphere in the book. No-one trusts anyone, everyone is watching their back, and a violent end is literally just a heartbeat away.
Rival Sons is not a book for the faint of heart. Nor should it be. It is a tale told unapologetically and without fear, the author - like all really good authors - not feeling the need to protect the reader at any point from the brutal landscape inhabited by the characters. And the core of the book really is the characters. They are drawn so strongly - from the brother's sick mum and aging gangster father, to Kyle's wife and teenager daughter. The relationships between each of the characters are so vivid, it is impossible to take your eyes off them when they cross paths. The dialogue is as it should be - razor sharp and layered, the tension at times - especially towards the incredible ending - almost unbearable.
Published by the brilliant Shotgun Honey, Rival Sons is available on kindle and paperback, and is very highly recommended.