Betrayal is purely and simply the everyday story of criminal folk, from 1981 until 2016. They are a large East End family, headed by Reeva, a fiery Irishwoman, who has five sons and one daughter, all by different fathers, and all of mixed blood.
Reeva has few things going for her. She is drunken, violent and quarrelsome. She does have a plus side, however. She is a loving mother to all her children, a brilliant cook, and keeps her council house immaculately. She is not at all intelligent, apart from a certain low cunning. She is only interested in her family, sex and drink, in that order.
The characters of the six children are very well drawn, and they are all very different. The dominant one is Aiden, the eldest, a highly intelligent teenager who adores his mother. Within the local community he is recognised as someone special, and his headmaster is very anxious that he should be put forward for a scholarship to a good senior school. But Aiden himself and the rest of his family are not interested. Aiden's only purpose in life is to make money, lots of it, to support the family.
Up to this point I rather liked Aiden. But as the years pass and he becomes a man, gradually he also becomes a monster. His need to control everyone he knows, most of all his family, becomes obsessive. A very wealthy criminal, Eric Palmer, whose fortune has been carved out from prostitution and drug dealing, takes Aiden under his wing and teaches him everything he knows.
All Reeva's children work for “the firm” - it is impossible, under Aiden's rule, for any of them to work honestly. The one exception is the youngest, Agnes. She is a good girl, beautiful and bright. She is devoted to her Catholic faith, and attends Mass twice daily. When Aiden finally marries and has a son, she devotes herself to looking after him, and seems not to want a life of her own.
The years pass until one day Agnes does want a life of her own. She falls in love with one of Aiden's criminal associates, and what's worse, becomes pregnant by him. Soon Aiden's son is growing up. He too makes what Aiden considers an extremely foolish choice as a partner. Aiden, as is inevitable in his circumstances, is renowned for his tortures and bloody murders. He considers his family has betrayed him ...