“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Brought To Book # 132: KT McCaffrey on Gerard Murphy’s Death Without Trace

Back in 2005, Death Without Trace (Collins Press) seemed to slip beneath the radar as though in keeping with the title. A shame if you missed it, because Murphy’s opus represents superior crime fiction worthy of a wide audience. The author, a lecturer at the institute of technology in Carlow, has created an instantly appealing part-time detective. Mike Madigan, whose day job is that of brewery foreman (a gumshoe in a brewery – only in Ireland) has recently separated from wife Sally but remains plagued by erectile memories, bad dreams and erotic nightmares from his time with her. With character names like Madigan and Philip Marlow (superintendent at the local cop shop), it’ll come as no surprise that the author is a disciple of the American rather than British style of crime fiction. The action, set in Dublin, is written very much in the Chandleresque tradition and is peppered with wise-cracking one-liners that are equal to the best you’ll find in this genre. The fast-paced prose never flags, delivering a feast of bon mots such as:
- Girls in frilly dresses cleaned the tables like the semi-innocuous afterthoughts of a Victorian wet dream.
- There she was, a smile stretched between her cheeks, warm as a two-bar heater.
- It’s a poor mouse that depends on only one hole.
- A small slice of new moon sat over the cathedral like a piece of half-chewed orange peel.
You get the idea. The plot – which in this case is less important than the characters and style – sees Madigan being hired by the glamorous wife of a professor of neurobiology to keep an eye on her husband, whom she suspects of having an affair. Madigan, when not listening to Steve Earle, Warren Zevon, Tom Waits or Van Morrison, gives the case his attention but soon finds himself out of his depth in the city’s underworld of crime. If you’re familiar with the intrepid PI John Blaine (Vincent Banville’s gem of a creation) you’ll identify with, and enjoy, Madigan in Death Without Trace.- KT McCaffrey

Death Without Trace is available at the Collins Press. KT McCaffrey’s latest novel, The Cat Trap, will be published in November by Robert Hale

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