“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

“A Coven Of Bitches?” Hmmm, Ruth Dudley Edward’s Obviously In Town …

There’s no one quite like Ruth Dudley Edwards to tell it like it is. While some of us – and we know who we are – tip-toe around the bleedin’ obvious when talking about women’s fiction, aka chick lit, Ruth straps on a size 12 bovver boot and gets bovvering, most recently in Saturday’s Irish Times, to wit:
“We like each other, do crime writers. Unlike romantic novelists, who allegedly are a coven of bitches, driven to nastiness by having to produce saccharine books, crime writers get their frustrations out on the page and get their revenge on their enemies vicariously … We find each other not just friendly and agreeable, but interesting, because we come from a bewildering variety of backgrounds … And while there are sharks and opportunists in every profession, most of our editors, publishers and booksellers truly love the genre and enjoy its practitioners.”
Oooh, saucy, madam. But then, what would you expect from someone who’s latest offering is the somewhat-less-than-coyly titled MURDERING AMERICANS? Let's just be thankful she’s on our side, people …

Friday, October 12, 2007

“More Brimstone, Vicar?”

Mia Gallagher’s Hellfire, published by Penguin at the beginning of summer, somehow managed to slip under the Crime Always Pays radar, for which dereliction of duty a number of radar-manning elves (radar-elving elves?) have been slathered in honey and staked out over an anthill. For lo! T’would appear Ms Gallagher has written something of a modern Irish classic! A first-person narrative of junk addiction in a Dublin inner-city ghetto, delivered in the local argot, it’s been garnering the kind of raves that are but a hairsbreadth from rants, to wit: “The gamble Gallagher takes - to insist on the redemptive power of story through one restricted voice and over so many pages - pays off. That’s an extraordinary ambition. A grand achievement, too,” says Niall Griffiths at Guardian Unlimited, while the Irish Emigrant made it their Book of the Week: “Ms Gallagher’s debut novel is a tour de force, an immensely powerful story written with an honesty that is both shocking and deeply affecting.” And the resolutely restrained Sunday Business Post was particularly moved. Quoth Alex Meehan: “The hell of the addict’s existence is rendered normal through Lucy’s eyes and it is horrible to witness. That we care so much speaks highly of a character drawn well with a believable narrative. This book could have been about the ugliness of heroin but instead it’s about the beauty of hope.” Dare we finish this post with an exultant “Mama Mia!”? Lawks, we do!

Prophets, Profits And Irish Crime Fiction: Discuss

Cecilia Ahern. Ken Bruen. Cathy Kelly. Tana French. Marian Keyes. Declan Hughes.
All Irish writers, of course, and no prizes for guessing which of names you’ve recognized. One of them won a brace of gongs at Bouchercon 2007 in the US, the biggest American awards ceremony of its kind. Another won the award for best debut novel at the same ceremony. A third debuted on the New York Times best-seller list three weeks ago.
Their names? Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes and Tana French, respectively.
But unless you’re one of their small but growing band of Irish crime fiction fans, there’s a very good chance you won’t have heard of them before.
Meanwhile we get Marian Keyes billboards and Cecilia Ahern bus posters. Displays of Cathy Kelly’s books that take up entire shop windows.
The crime fiction writers? Buried away down the back of the bookstore, jammed in between the soft porn and science fiction. An Irish crime writer hoping for publicity would be best advised to get a gun and a mask and go blag a bank for real.
Strange, isn’t it? Crime fiction and chick lit are equally reader-friendly genres, both primarily concerned with escapist entertainment. The crime writers are at least as good in the writing stakes as their chick lit peers, or else they wouldn’t be valued so highly in America (and not just America: Declan Hughes’s The Wrong Kind of Blood and Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands were both nominated for Best Debut Novels in the UK’s CWA ‘Dagger’ awards last month).
So why the disconnect between Irish crime writers and an Irish audience?
You could argue that an Irish generation reared during the hedonistic years of the Celtic Tiger has no stomach for reading about corrupt politicians, Tiger kidnappings, paedophile priests and gangland killings. You don’t get many murder-rapes in chick lit.
Fair enough, except the true crime genre is one of the fastest-growing niches in Irish publishing today. Books on the corpse-dismembering ‘Scissors Sisters’, the media-friendly murderer Joe O’Reilly, the Criminal Assets Bureau and the Miami Showband massacre are among some of the true crime stories that have appeared on Irish best-seller lists over the last 12 months.
Meanwhile, newspaper headlines are full of innocent bystanders gunned down by hired killers, and the taoiseach takes the stand again and again to explain financial irregularities.
And maybe crime fatigue is the problem. Where the crime writers are busy telling us where it all went wrong, chick lit is still promising it’ll all turn out Mr Right.
One crew is flogging hair-shirts, the other comfort pillows. No contest on the easier sale.
Prophets are never recognised in their own country. Profits generally are. - Declan Burke


This article was first published in the Evening Herald.

Symptoms Of A General Malaise

Published by New Island, Frances Cahill’s biography of her late father, MARTIN CAHILL, MY FATHER, aka Ireland’s most famous gangster, The General, has been getting some serious oxygen by Irish true crime standards, most recently in the Daily Mirror. Quoth Stephen Maguire:
“Frances Cahill’s book about her crime-lord dad The General has sparked a feud - because she broke an unwritten family code of silence about the gangster, it was claimed yesterday. Law student Frances, who lives with her family in Wicklow, received a EUR20,000 advance for her controversial book MARTIN CAHILL, MY FATHER. The sensational biography claims the Dublin gangster thwarted a plot to kidnap Bono’s daughter and also reveals how he once carried out 100 burglaries in one night. But the book has now back-fired in Frances’ face with many of her extended family furious she has broken their unwritten rule to never speak publicly about the slain gangland boss …”
Meanwhile, John Burke, public affairs correspondent with the Sunday Business Post and a former crime reporter, is less than favourable in his review, which concludes thusly:
“The author accords comparatively little of the critical tone she reserves for the gardaĆ­ to these acts of criminality. Most of Cahill’s criminal career - the Beit robberies, his run-ins with the Provisional IRA, the robberies, the bomb attack that maimed forensic scientist Jim Donovan - has been documented before in great detail in both print and on film, yet never before has his life been portrayed in such sympathetic terms. It is likely this book will sell well, but many will find it difficult to accommodate the comparable lack of balance by the author in her depiction of her father, a career criminal, and the gardaĆ­ and justice system that justifiably sought to end his reign of violent crime.”
Still, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? And with Ireland’s appetite for true crime stories showing no discernible signs of diminishing, this one should have more legs than the Spider Olympics.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

James Doyle gets in touch all the way from smelly, smoky London town, to suggest that Crime Always Pays – in conjunction with those Modesty Blaise-tastic folks at Souvenir Press – offer three copies of the reissued Modesty Blaise classic, A TASTE FOR DEATH, in a freebie giveaway. No sooner said than done, sir: if you – yes, YOU! – want to be in with chance of winning a gratis copy of A TASTE FOR DEATH, just answer the following question:
The author of the Modesty Blaise series is …
(a) Peter O’Donnell;
(b) Chris O’Donnell;
(c) Rosie O’Donnell.
To enter, just drop us a mail at dbrodb(at)gmail.com, putting ‘Modesty Blaise comp’ in the subject line. Vote early and often, people – the lines close at noon on Monday 15th.

“Irish Crime Is Brought To You Today By The Letter Z, And The Number 2007.”

Released last week, there’s a funky cover to Alan Sherry’s THE A-Z OF IRISH CRIME, featuring bullet-holes, handcuffs and – lawks! – actual guns. Well, one gun. We’re particularly interested as to who and what from the realms of Irish crime comes under the ‘Z’ section, so we’re waiting with bated breath for our review copy to arrive from Maverick House Mansions (hi, Gert). And while we go slowly blue in the face, here’s the Maverick blurb elves giving it their quill-smouldering best, to wit:
“THE A-Z OF IRISH CRIME is an in-depth reference book on modern Irish crime concentrating mainly from 1996 to present day, focusing on key gangland figures and murders. The book also focuses on key criminal agencies, weapons of gangland Ireland, drugs, missing persons and all serious crime. An A-Z of Irish crime has not been done before. This should be a comprehensive, original book giving a wide perspective of crime throughout Ireland.”
Marvellous stuff. You think our beloved leader, Patrick Bartholomew, gets a mention?

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: IF I DID IT by OJ Simpson

A curious book to review, given that its context is just as important, if not more so, than its content. Published by the Goldman family after a protracted legal wrangle that wrested the rights away from Simpson, IF I DID IT (subtitled: Confessions of the Killer) purports to be an empowering document for victims of crime everywhere, with the Goldman family arguing that it was inevitable this book would be published, and that the salaciousness of its content is ameliorated by the fact that the proceeds from its sale will go to the Ron Goldman Foundation for Justice. In fact, once the Goldmans obtained the rights, there was no need to publish, and they’ve done so against the wishes of the Brown family; and only 10% of the proceeds are going to the Foundation for Justice, the rest being off-set against the monies Simpson owes the family since the civil case judgement. As for the body of the book, in which OJ Simpson offers an unnecessarily detailed history of his relationship with Nicole Brown, there’s a compelling narrative buried deep beneath his self-serving attempts to transfer the burden of guilt for the events of the fateful night onto her shoulders. Think third-rate Jim Thompson redrafted by a very drunk Gil Brewer and you’re halfway there: Simpson, in his own words and courtesy of fine work by ghost-writer Pablo F. Fenjves, come across as a nastily self-absorbed narcissist and makes for a classic unreliable narrator, albeit without the charm you might expect from a fictional creation. The crucial chapter, in which Simpson hypothesises about what might have happened had he been there on the fateful night, is grotesque given that it’s the only time in the entire narrative when he strays into hypothesis, while elsewhere insisting that he is the only person who can tell the story as he’s the only one who knows the facts. In fact, the crucial chapter is a double cheat on the unsuspecting reader: not only does Simpson momentarily absolve himself from the responsibility of telling the truth, he offers only a crude ‘black-out’ coping mechanism when confronted with the horrendous moment when Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman were butchered. The only person to emerge with any credit is Ron Goldman, who merits a very brief mention as a Good Samaritan trapped in the wrong place at the wrong time – albeit, and most significantly, by the wrong person. In a word? Tacky. – Declan Burke

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Cut To The Quirke

Benny Blanco from the Bronx (aka Benjamin Black, aka John Banville) returns with the Quirke-tastic follow-up to CHRISTINE FALLS this November, THE SILVER SWAN being an investigation into who exactly green-lit the eye-searing art-deco interiors in Sligo’s recently refurbished Silver Swan hotel. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s actually a dodgy suicide that arouses Quirke’s “old itch to cut into the quick of things, to delve into the dark of what was hidden.” Hmmm, sounds like a bad case of the thong-wedgies to us. Or is that just wishful thinking on behalf of the Crime Always Pays elves who lust after Benny, the silver fox? Anyhoo, credit to the blurb elves over at Henry Holt for downplaying Benny’s sophomore offering so artfully, to wit:
“Haunting, masterfully written, and utterly mesmerizing in its nuance, The Silver Swan fully lives up to the promise of Christine Falls and firmly establishes Benjamin Black (a.k.a. John Banville) among the greatest of crime writers.”
Pardon us while we swoon dead away. But before we do, here’s an excerpt from THE SILVER SWAN:
“HER FOREHEAD WAS CLEAR AND HIGH, and the swathe of copper-coloured hair falling back from it must indeed have been magnificent. Quirke had a picture in his mind of her sprawled on the wet rocks, a long swatch of that hair coiled around her neck like a thick frond of gleaming seaweed. What, he wondered, could possibly have driven this handsome, healthy young creature to fling herself on a summer midnight off Sandycove pier into the black waters of Dublin Bay? Her clothes, so Billy Hunt had said, had been placed in a neat pile on the pier beside the wall; that was the only trace she had left of her going, that, and her motor car, which Quirke was certain would have been another thing she was proud of, and which yet she had abandoned. Her car and her hair: twin sources of vanity. But what was it had pulled that vanity down? Then he spotted the tiny puncture mark on the chalk-white inner side of her left arm …”
All together now: Sahwoooooooon …

Why I Write # 112: KT McCaffrey

“One thing’s for sure, it’s not the money – thought I’d get that out of the way up front. I spent years (too many) in graphic design and advertising and made obscene amounts of money doing something my heart was never really in. Belatedly, I got sense and walked away from it. These days I confine my creative activities to writing and painting. Since childhood I’ve had the urge to draw, paint, sing, show-off, anything that satisfies the need to express myself. After studying in the National College of Art and Design, I was given the opportunity to put what creative talents I possessed to use in advertising. I was lucky in so far as it provided a lucrative career but it left me unfulfilled. And then, by chance, an opportunity arose to illustrate a series of Irish Folk Tales. To do this, I had to study the text, analyse the story and identify the set-pieces for illustration. Around this time, I became heavily involved in amateur drama as an actor and a director – an activity that, like the folk tales, forced me to analyse scripts and deconstruct the plots. As a voracious reader and lover of theatre and cinema, it seemed like a natural progression to have a shot at writing myself. I was incredibly lucky to have had my first effort, REVENGE, accepted by Mercier Press. Each year since then I’ve written a book and the thrill of seeing the work in print never diminishes. Why do I write? I don’t have a succinct answer or any kind of logical rationale but it has something to do with the elements outlined above. That, and a measure of madness, a dollop of conceit, an understanding wife, and a need for peer approval might go somewhere to providing an answer.”

KT McCaffrey’s THE CAT TRAP will be published in spring 2008.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Embiggened O # 943: Yet Another Little Ray Of Sunshine

Greetings from the grimy coalface of independent publishing, folks, where the big-ups we’ve been begging from actual real writers have been coming in thick and thicker for our humble offering, THE BIG O. The latest ray of sunshine comes, appropriately enough, from Ray Banks, whose arm we viciously Indian-burned until he finally uncled and (ahem) volunteered the following:
“THE BIG O is a scintillating mixture of genuine wit, charm by the bucket-load and the kind of whip-crack plotting that makes “a couple of pages” turn into an all-nighter. Burke has [George V.] Higgins’ gift for dialogue, [Barry] Gifford’s concision and the effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak. In short, THE BIG O is an essential crime novel of 2007, and one of the best of any year.” – Ray Banks, author of DONKEY PUNCH
Ray? Sorry about the, y’know, assault. But we’re told Indian burns don’t leave any actual scars …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 499: Sean Moncrieff

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...
What crime novel would you most like to have written?
Usually the last one I’ve read, if it’s any good. So with that in mind, I’d love to have written ASK THE PARROT by Richard Stark, whom I have only just discovered (I am a bit of a an innocent in the world of crime fiction). During the rugby world cup you may well have heard various television windbag-pundits use the phrase ‘get the basics right’ – well, the same applies for writers. Sometimes writers forget the basic rules (in as far as you can have rules) and become self-indulgent; a trend, alas, far too common in established authors. Philip Roth, though I love his work dearly, could do with a good editor and perhaps a bit of a bitch-slapping. Or he could read anything by Richard Stark. With Stark, you don’t find out what the sky looked like that morning or what colour the landscape was or even what anyone feels: you are straight into the story, and anything you are going to find out about the characters, it will be from what they say, and more importantly, what they do. Yet even with this minimal approach, Stark is able to imply a rich back story for his characters without even telling us anything about them: he gives the sense that the story has already begun, we’ve arrived late and need to catch up. And yes, yes, I know that the more-knowledgeable-than-me among you (which is probably all of you) are already screaming at your screen that Richard Stark is only a nom-de-plume. After I read my first Stark novel, I enjoyed it so much I didn’t Google him: I didn’t want to discover that he was in reality a portly 53-year-old man from Leicester who wears Jethro Tull tee-shirts and visits naturist beaches every summer. In my imagination, he was a grizzled old geezer who has churned out every sort of potboiler; honing his skills over decades. Because after all, good writing is good writing, no matter where it is found. Curiosity, of course, got the better of me - and brought me to one of those rare moments in life when things were actually as I imagined them: Richard Stark is Donald Westlake, a grizzled old New York geezer who has probably forgotten how many books he’s written - on his website, he can’t even remember all of the titles - as well as screenplays, most notably THE GRIFTERS and least notably a really terrible TV pilot called Supertrain (I’ve actually seen it). I like the idea of people like Donald Westlake: writers who are serious but not precious about what they do. Oh yes: and we can claim him too. He is 75 per cent Irish, though he was born on July 12th, a little fact which he says “led to my first awareness of comedy as a consumer.”
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Can’t really think of anything I’m guilty about reading, apart from pornography. And technically, that’s not reading. Like most people who give out about cultural snobbery, I’m a complete snob. If I don’t like the first page, I won’t read it.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Oh, just had one of those. I suppose it varies from person to person, but when I make the commitment to actually start writing a book, it’s a bit like committing to get married to someone you’ve just met on the bus. Who has just told you about her seven kids. And her psychopathic and extremely jealous ex-husband. In other words, I generally have no idea what is going to happen. Now this doesn’t mean I'm waiting for the spirit of the characters to inhabit me or some guff like that - I have a rough plan for where it should be going. But no matter how you ‘get the basics right’, you are still waiting for something to click, some ingredient X in there that lets you know that what you’ve written has the breath of life in it. And sometimes it doesn’t come. Sometimes the characters are wooden and the story is tedious, and you have to think of a way of fixing this or dumping it altogether. I’m currently ten thousand words into a new novel, and had convinced myself that it was utter crap - until I read it back for the first time and realised that it was OK and that my main character is headed in a very clear direction . So it was a mixture of huge relief that I’ve not been wasting my time and a Eureka-type realisation that another book is definitely on the way. With any book you hit various problems and the work slows down a bit, but at the moment it feels like I can’t get the words out fast enough. It’s the greatest of all buzzes.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Oh, I dunno. Ken Bruen springs to mind. His work has a great sense of Irish melancholia. And I like the way his heroes are all a bit crap at what they do.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Ken Bruen again, though it would have to be done just right.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing is you get to live inside your own head for long periods of time. The worst thing is you get to live inside your own head for long periods of time - which isn’t always so great if you occasionally have to emerge into the outside world and deal with spouses and kids, etc. I am lucky in that I split my time between writing in the morning and doing a radio show in the afternoon: two forms of work which, obviously, are quite different to each other, so I maintain some degree of balance.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
She cosies up to me on the bus seat, grinning slightly. “Why don’t we get married?” I say. She nods slowly, as if she’s just been thinking the same thing. “OK,” she whispers. “I mean, as long as my kids - I have seven - think it’s a good idea. And I suppose I’ll have to tell my ex-husband. He’s still extremely jealous. He’s getting out of prison next week. Who knows? Perhaps this time it’s done something to help him control his murderous temper.” I shrug, as if these are the sort of problems we all have to deal with, though mine is more imminent. We’ve only just met and already I can’t remember her name ...
Who are you reading right now?
I’m just finishing THE LAY OF THE LAND by Richard Ford. Wonderful, thoughtful, funny, loveable book, which to my mind is his best work. And by the standards of Richard Ford, it’s action packed.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Notions about himself.

Sean Moncrieff’s THE HISTORY OF THINGS is available now.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Monday Review

Salacious title, groovy gal, to wit: “Baroness Jack is a delightful character and with Robert at her side they make a perfect duo in this entertaining and witty book,” says Mystery Book Reviews of Ruth Dudley Edwards’ MURDERING AMERICANS. Over at Euro Crime, Mike Ripley agrees: “Good comedy thrillers with outrageous comic detectives are few and far between … It is therefore a pure pleasure to welcome back the eccentric Baroness “Jack” Troutbeck, that most unsubtle of sleuths.” Elsewhere, Jen Robinson isn’t impressed the audio book of Benjamin Black’s CHRISTINE FALLS: “Well-written, very detailed characterization, but a bit slow-paced for listening on audio. I think I would have preferred it in print.” Over at Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker gives SLIDE an A-, to wit: “A loose follow-up to Ken Bruen and Jason Starr’s superb 2006 Bust (with a couple of the same characters), SLIDE is all genially ferocious menace.” A hop, skip and a quantum leap away from SLIDE is Cora Harrison’s MY LADY JUDGE, which Harriet Klausner likes quite a lot over at Genre Go Round: “Cora Harrison writes an enjoyable historical whodunit starring a wonderful protagonist who understands no one is above Brehon law.” And what of Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, eh? “This is a true good vs evil type of book with a large dollop of wit and humour … It is a well crafted tale which reminds me of Ghost Rider meets Harry Dresden,” reckons Kamannix at Books4Ever … They’re still coming in for Tana French’s IN THE WOODS: “This book is more interesting than your average police procedural, and far more realistic (if unsatisfying) in the ending,” vouches the 50 Book Challenge … Recent Shamus winner Declan Hughes has Ibjana purring at the San Diego County Library over THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, to wit: “This was a really good book … I was shocked at the ending, I never once predicted the villain, or a few other twists to the story. I’ll be waiting patiently for his next book.” One of Crime Always Pays novels of the year, JULIUS WINSOME, has them creaming out yonder at the Western People thusly: “His writing has been compared to Beckett and Kafka, uniting satire and tragedy, pain and hilarity. JULIUS WINSOME is a provocative and deeply poignant novel by a writer with an undoubted talent for creativity and black humour. Perhaps it is the originality of JULIUS WINSOME that is most impressive. This is a narrative like no other - a strange, deeply disturbing tale that is utterly compelling from start to finish.” Yup, we couldn’t agree more … John Burke at the Sunday Business Post isn’t crazy about Frances Cahill’s biographical MARTIN CAHILL, MY FATHER: “It is likely this book will sell well, but many will find it difficult to accommodate the comparable lack of balance by the author in her depiction of her father, a career criminal, and the Gardai and justice system that justifiably sought to end his reign of violent crime.” Another true crime showing, THE MIAMI SHOWBAND MASSACRE by Steven Travers and Neil Featherstonehaugh, fares rather better with Tom Widger at the Sunday Tribune: “This is a chilling read, culminating in a chilling encounter with a UVF man who regrets that he and his fellow butchers “didn’t do more”.” Meanwhile, Mary Rose Callaghan’s BILLY, COME HOME went down a treat with Mr and Mrs Publishers Weekly, to wit: “Without becoming mawkish or preachy, Callaghan delivers an effective indictment of society’s failure to care for a vulnerable minority.” The late, lamented Siobhan Dowd’s THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY is still wowing ’em over at the Irish Times: “Everything about this book – the perky tone, the subtlety of characterisation and the cleverness of the plotting – is absolutely right,” reckons Robert Dunbar, and we’re not about to argue … A rare review for Andrew Pepper’s THE REVENGE OF CAPTAIN PAINE, courtesy of Tangled Web, suggests there should be more: “There is much to recommend THE REVENGE OF CAPTAIN PAINE, although many readers will find Pyke too unsympathetic a character to follow to the end. This is history with no holds barred, a step into the violent and visceral world that civilisation has tried so hard to leave behind … for those who aren’t squeamish, this is not to be missed,” says Rafe McGregor … Finally, Ronan Bennett’s ZUGWANG has been rocking them in the aisles all over. “The racier elements are less subtle than the author’s early masterpiece, The Catastrophist, but somehow that seems appropriate to the noir-ish atmosphere of the proceedings,” says Val Nolan at the Sunday Business Post, while the Sunday Tribune is equally effusive: “This thriller by Ronan Bennett was first published in serial form, and the brilliant set-up is deceptively deadpan … one needs to know nothing of “mysterious rook moves” or the Maroczy Bind to enjoy this atmospheric, ingenious and perfectly paced novel.” Lastly but by no means leastly, Anne Fogarty’s Irish Times two cents runneth thusly: “In Zugswang, Bennett with characteristic finesse supplies us at once with an engrossing thriller and a historical romance that suggestively examines the workings of power and the utopian desire for justice and equality.” And if it’s good enough for the Old Lady – the Irish Times, that is, not Anne – then it’s good enough for us …

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD by Adrian McKinty

The concluding part of Adrian McKinty’s ‘Dead’ trilogy, following on from DEAD I WELL MAY BE and THE DEAD YARD, THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD finds the seemingly indestructible Michael Forsythe back on home ground in Ireland for the first time since he left Belfast in 1991. It’s not what you might call a happy homecoming, however; the daughter of his former lover, the flame-haired Bridget, has gone missing in Belfast, and Bridget needs Michael to help track her down. Among the many snags in this scenario is that Michael has spent the last decade living in an FBI witness protection programme designed to keep him off Bridget’s radar, given that his final revenge killing was that of her husband-to-be and Bridget has since assumed control of a criminal empire. Arriving into Dublin on June 16 – Bloomsday, honouring the hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses – Michael has 24 hours to find Bridget’s daughter and thus cancel out his debt of blood, or face the fatal consequences. McKinty is a rare writer, one who can combine the conventionally muscular prose of crime fiction with a lyrical flair for language, and the blend is a compelling one. Forsythe is himself a fascinating character, brusque and blunt in his public exchanges, lethal when trapped in a tight spot (of which there are many in this furiously-plotted tale, which loosely follows the path laid down by both Leopold Bloom and Odysseus), yet possessed of a poet’s soul during his interior monologues. The violence is graphically etched into the page, as if stamped there by the force of its authenticity, but McKinty never forgets that his first priority is to entertain, leavening the bleakness with flashes of mordant humour. If there’s a disappointment it’s that this is being touted as the final Forsythe novel, and one hopes otherwise; but if THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD is the last we’ll see of this Irish rogue cannon, then the pathos-drenched finale is fittingly poignant. – Declan Burke

This review is republished by kind permission of Euro Crime