The novelisation of the Australian crime film noir ANIMAL KINGDOM lacks depth and style, reading more like a screen-play than fully fleshed novel.
The concept far outweighed the execution. Sewell's adaptation could've resulted in a great and memorable piece of Australian crime fiction if only the author had neglected to adopt the James Patterson lack of explicit detail and two dimensional characterisation approach to writing this violent and bloody tale.
J, a 17yr old has led a rough life. With no father figure for guidance and a drug addict for a mother, his only form of solace lies with girlfriend Nicky. Needing a place to call home after his mothers death he finds a roof over his head and a mountain of bad baggage when he bunks with his extended and criminally renowned family.
Smurf, is a Ma Baker type who doesn't bat an eyelid at her sons criminal enterprises. Darren, Pope, Baz, and Craig are all young men with hardened careers on the wrong side of the thin blue line who at once welcome and segregate J to their way of life. Made to fell like an outcast, forced to don a foreign persona, threatened with loosing his girlfriend, and in fear of his life, J feels the full gambit of emotions as life as a Cody boy.
Somehow author Stephen Sewell manages to instill some redeeming qualities in the young Cody criminal-by-association teen taking the reader on a journey (all be it all too brief) to self realisation and growth as his comes to terms with his predicament.
I haven't watch the film this novel was adapted from but hope it comes across with more character detail and overall depth. Despite some fragmented sequences and the obvious shortcomings, I did enjoy the story of this Aussie crime family and the pure brutality certain characters endured - there were glimpses of good.
If you're looking for a family crime drama without a lot of substance that is quick and easy to read then check out ANIMAL KINGDOM. However, for more serious readers, I'd suggest Tom Piccirilli's THE LAST KIND WORDS and THE LAST WHISPER IN THE DARK - both books have the same feel, done right.