“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, December 22, 2007

Books Of The Year # 6: BORDERLANDS By Brian McGilloway

Being the continuing stooooooory of our ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation, which is mainly designed to give the impression that we have proper writers as friends. Or, indeed, any friends at all. To wit:
BORDERLANDS by Brian McGilloway
Small but perfectly formed, this little gem of a book is the debut of Brian McGilloway, an author I am sure is set for great success. The Borderlands are the area between Northern Ireland and Eire. As the book opens, the body of a teenage girl has been found in this modern no-man’s land, and two police detectives from either side of the border must decide who is to take the case. Because the girl turns out to live in Lifford, Inspector Ben Devlin of the Garda is the winner of this grim award, with his opposite number from the north, Jim Hendry, the loser. What follows over the next couple of hundred pages of this slight but telling book is a focused police procedural set during the next few days of Christmas and the New Year: an investigation hampered by weather, holidays and the need for co-ordination between the Northern and Southern administrations as witnesses, suspects and evidence turn up in the towns, hamlets and countryside on either side of the twisting border. McGilloway weaves together a complex set of characters and motives, his canvas expanding as another victim is found, as drugs seem to be involved, as Devlin’s own superior and colleagues come under suspicion, and as his own slightly tense domestic life is destabilised by an aggressive neighbour and by an old flame. Although Devlin strays from the straight and narrow both in running the investigation and in his marriage, he is essentially a good man whose innate honesty and doggedness take him further and further into an increasingly tangled web. As with many of the best crime-fiction novels, the strengths of this book lie both in its convincing portrayal of place, and in the shadows of the past, into which Devlin and his junior partner Caroline Williams have to travel in order to make connections, and hence sense, of the present. My only complaint is that a map would have helped the reader to understand the geography of the investigation, the sensitive areas in which Devlin has to clear certain aspects with Hendry, the rather taunting northern detective, and the strangely surreal area in which the events play out. Nevertheless, the author barely puts a foot wrong in this confident book. Major and minor characters are portrayed with an efficient ease that makes them real people; their personal difficulties as well as their significance to the plot combine to make a compelling whole. The final couple of chapters perhaps stray from the solid believability of the rest of the book. Although by the last quarter of the book it is relatively easy to work out who is responsible for the deaths and why, the author keeps the reader guessing as to the identity of the “who” right to the end. Once this is revealed, it is evident that there are one or two holes in the plot, but really, that doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of this excellent and well-written book.- Maxine Clarke
This review was first published on Euro Crime. Maxine Clarke inhabits Petrona.

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Those crazy maverick kids over at Maverick House have come up with another maverick idea – they’re offering the chance to nab their entire 2007 catalogue for gratis, free, zip and zilch. Quoth the blurb elves:
Maverick House Publishers has commissioned a special online survey to establish the reading habits of visitors to this website. The results of this survey will be used to improve the website and the range and quality of non-fiction books in our catalogue. The survey should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete.
One lucky participant will win copies of our entire 2007 list (13 books).*
Any information submitted will be treated confidentially and will not be shared with any other party company or agency.
Click here to take the 2007 Reader Survey.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Holt The Back Page

It can’t be easy being Adrian ‘Squinty’ McKinty (right). A good-looking cove, very much in the ‘craggily indented coastline’ kinda way, he’s also the author of fine cerebral thrillers, in particular the ‘Dead’ trilogy, the third part of which, THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD, get its mass-market paperback release today, December 21. But that’s not all. For lo! Yon McKinty is currently working on a new standalone, which has already been sold to Holt, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“A big, badass revenge thriller that travels from the slums of Castro’s Havana to an elite Hollywood party town in the Rocky Mountains, following a daughter’s single-minded pursuit of her father’s killer.”
Lumme! Holt also publishes Benny Blanco, aka Benjamin Black, aka Lord Lucan, but that’s not Squint’s fault and it’d be unfair to blame him retrospectively. So when can we expect to see the new McKinty offering? Erm, when it’s ready, apparently. Like, which would you prefer, to get it fast or get it good, eh? What’s that? You want it fast and good? Righty-o, we’ll get out the cattle prod so …

This Little Piggy Went Belatedly To Market

We’re a week late and more than a few dollars short, so it’s a heartfelt wea culpa to the good people at Material Witness, who are hosting this round of the Crime Carnival. Quoth Mr & Mrs Witness:
“Imagine a gentle, relaxed stroll through an atmospheric European Christmas market – perhaps in Austria or southern Germany. Snow is falling silently, the band is knocking out Silent Night, the cider is spiced and warm, almost as good as those tempting little pastries. Well, what we’re going to do with this leg of the Carnival is a little both. A little of Satan’s shopping mall as well as a leisurely tour around the Salzburg winter fair side of the blogosphere, and stop to sample the very best it has to offer from some of the marvellous writing talent in the ether …”
Sounds delightful, and it is. Get thee hence to Material Witness post-haste and partake of their crime fiction equivalent of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Spare not the reindeer, James …

Books Of The Year # 5: 12:23: PARIS. 31st AUGUST, 1997 by Eoin McNamee

Being the continuing stooooooory of our ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation, which is mainly designed to give the impression that we have proper writers as friends. To wit:
12:23: PARIS. 31st AUGUST, 1997 by Eoin McNamee
Given that Eoin McNamee inhabits the more literary end of the crime-writing spectrum, it comes as a very pleasant surprise to discover that his fin-de-siècle-in-retrospect thriller about the death of the former Princess of Wales in a Parisian automobile crash is written with the tropes of the hard-boiled crime novel very much in mind. The taut, often monosyllabic prose creates a relentless momentum as a variety of seedy characters (‘Bennett was like something exhumed by lamplight.’) arrive in Paris to inhabit the shadows and watch over the paparazzi-lit spectacle of ‘Spencer’ and ‘the Arab’, who are rumoured to be getting engaged as a result of Diana’s falling pregnant, a development unlikely to be well-received at the highest levels of the British establishment. Or are the hawks gathering because of Diana’s on-going campaign against landmines? Could it be true that she plans to speak out on behalf of the Palestinian cause? One of the pleasures of 12:23 is the realism McNamee brings to a tale that is as seductively plausible as The Day of the Jackal, while also playing up to the coarsened clichés of crime fiction: ‘Harper … crouched over, feeling like a fictional detective, a gone-to-seed aphorist in a cheap suit.’ … ‘Terse changes seemed to be in order. It was important that dialogue was clipped, utilitarian.’ An intimate tale that gets up close and personal with its bottom-feeding low-lives to the extent that it’s almost possible to smell their sweat and taste their cheap perfumes, it also has the capacity to open out into a kind of continent-vaulting international thriller, with McNamee making a number of non-specific references to a sense of over-arching collaboration in the supposed plot to murder the erstwhile princess, a plot in which the paparazzi are as guilty as specially-trained special forces operatives, and where the public greed which the paparazzi feeds is condemned as implicit in her destruction. ‘He knew the kinds of people who got swept up in the wake of people like Spencer. The cultists, the stalkers and loners and pale compulsives, out there on the margins, a citizenry of lost.’ Whether or not you buy into the Parisian grassy knoll theory McNamee offers here, this is a muscular tale of intrigue, deception, double- and triple-dealing. It’s also a masterclass in observational prose, and a compelling page-turner to boot.- Declan Burke
This review originally appeared on Euro Crime

Thursday, December 20, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 972: Stuart McBride

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?
A TOUCH OF FROST by R.D. Wingfield – in fact, anything by Wingfield, the man was a master of twisty multiple plotlines and brilliant characterisation. It’s a sin more people haven’t read him.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t think I’ve got any guilty reading secrets. Well, except for Allan Guthrie. His stuff makes me feel dirty and in need of a TCP bath. I suppose the nearest I get to it is when sometimes I’ll dip into a book that I just know is going to be crap, just for the twisted delight of hurling abuse at the printed page, its author and whoever ‘edited’ it. I don’t finish those books, I just like to wind myself up from time to time, makes me feel better about whatever it is I’m writing.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Probably when something finally clicks in the spider-infested basement of my brain and I suddenly realise why I stuck all that unplanned stuff into the book nine chapters ago and everything now makes sense. Tends to be short lived, but it’s nice when it happens.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I’m going to go with THE KILLING KIND by John Connolly. Mr Pud and his hairy fingers were a great creation.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Pretty much any of the Connolly ones. I’d worry that someone would screw them up, though.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is not having to get dressed to go to work. The worst part is never getting away from work – it’s always there, festering away in the back of your head.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
FLESH HOUSE basically goes like this: nasty stuff happens. Abduction. People run around a lot. PANIC. Cannibalism. Kermit the Frog’s sex life. Partial nudity. More cannibalism. And some of the darkest stuff I’ve ever written. It actually gave one of my test readers the screaming nightmares – so you know it’s going to be good, wholesome family fun.
Who are you reading right now?
I just finished BURIAL GROUND, by that little eldrich pixie John ‘Spanky’ Rickards. In it he gets his revenge for me making him a bondage-obsessed constable with Grampian Police in my last book BROKEN SKIN. Short people can be so vindictive ...
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Beard! Monkey! Fish!

Stuart McBride’s BROKEN SKIN is released in paperback on January 2. FLESH HOUSE will be published in May.

Maybe The People Would Be The Times*

It’s people power, folks. Maxine at Petrona brings us the news that lunatics with impeccable taste have taken over at the reading asylum known as The Times’ book group. Quoth Maxine:
Tana French’s IN THE WOODS will be the next title to be read by the Times book group. Alyson Rudd, editor of the group, writes: “This is a real treat for Christmas. IN THE WOODS is a classic murder mystery with plenty of twists and macabre detail.” She continues: “This is Tana French’s debut and is startlingly accomplished. Many detective stories are described as “superior” to differentiate them from the many lazy and predictable thrillers out there — but this really is. French writes beautifully and is far from lazy when it comes to sprinkling clues and red herrings and developing the characters.”
In other words, IN THE WOODS is a Ruddy good read. That lazy enough for ya?

* A free copy of IN THE WOODS to the first person to get in touch and let us know the album this header comes from. Ray Banks? You’re barred.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

La Hart Is A Lonely Hunter

The latest offering in the Irish Independent’s series on 20 contemporary female Irish writers throws up another modern crime classic, Josephine Hart’s DAMAGE. Quoth the Indo’s Books Editor, John Spain:
DAMAGE by Josephine Hart
This is a novel about sexual obsession. Stephen is a successful doctor and politician in London, a sophisticated man with a dutiful wife and grown up children. He has reached middle-age, having lived a correct but passionless life. All that changes when he meets his son’s intended fiancée, Anna, an impulsive and secretive young woman emotionally crippled by her past. Instantly, they are attracted to each other and begin a voracious sexual relationship. In spite of the damage it may do if his son finds out, Stephen is gripped by a compulsion to possess Anna that overpowers him. Anna has unlocked the violent reality behind his carefully created facade. This book is a chilling exploration of physical passion and psychological darkness. It is a story of obsessive behaviour which knows no bounds, fast paced and sometimes explicit. “Damaged people are dangerous,” says Anna. “They know they can survive.” DAMAGE sold over one million copies worldwide when first published and was made into a major film directed by Louis Malle, starring Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche. Born and educated in Ireland, Josephine Hart now lives in London and is the author of five novels. She is married to Maurice Saatchi, the co-founder of one of Britain's most successful advertising companies.
As always, the indefatigable CAP elves continue their Quixotic campaign to persuade the Indo to run a series of 20 contemporary crime novels, none of which are in the first flush of publishing, the full list of which runneth thusly:
1. QUINN by Seamus Smyth
2. THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen
3. DEAD I WELL MAY BE by Adrian McKinty
4. HALF MOON INVESTIGATIONS by Eoin Colfer
5. EVERY DEAD THING by John Connolly
6. THE POLLING OF THE DEAD by John Kelly
7. LITTLE CRIMINALS by Gene Kerrigan
8. DIVORCING JACK by Colin Bateman
9. THE GUILTY HEART by Julie Parsons
10. BOGMAIL by Patrick McGinley
11. DEATH THE PALE RIDER by Vincent Banville
12. THE BUTCHER BOY by Patrick McCabe
13. THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O’Brien
14. IN THE FOREST by Edna O’Brien
15. THE COLOUR OF BLOOD by Brian Moore
16. REVENGE by KT McCaffrey
17. THE ASSASSIN by Liam O’Flaherty
18. RESURRECTION MAN by Eoin McNamee
19. DEATH CALL by TS O’Rourke
20. A CARRA KING by John Brady
The Big Question: what blatantly glaring omission has made the elves the laughing stock of all right-thinking crime aficionados? Ye olde comment boxe is open, people …

Books Of The Year # 4: JULIUS WINSOME by Gerard Donovan

Being the continuing stooooooory of our ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation, designed to save us the hassle of buying them actual pressies. To wit:
JULIUS WINSOME by Gerard Donovan
Julius Winsome lives alone in the northern Maine woods, with only his dog Hobbes to keep him company. When Hobbes is shot to death by an unknown hunter, the mild-mannered Julius takes down the rifle his grandfather brought home from the trenches of WWI and sets out to wreak revenge. The simple plot outline, however, is a stark framework upon which Gerard Donovan stretches a compelling tale. Its telling is drum-skin tight and yet layered with a fierce hatred, poignant grief, an almost unbearable loneliness and a powerful desire to restore the cosmic balance that has been tilted imperceptibly out of kilter by the unwarranted killing of Hobbes – a voracious reader, Julius is a connoisseur of arcane Shakespearian phrases, and particularly those that hark back to a more primitive form of mediaeval, and perhaps even primordial, justice. Despite the elegiac tone, this is a real page-turner. Julius Winsome is as fascinating a character as has emerged from mainstream fiction for some time, an entirely realistic borderline psychopath who garners the reader’s sympathy even as he questions his own motives and the extent to which he is prepared to pursue his deranged logic. Donovan’s prose is masterfully controlled, restrained and elegantly simple but devastating in its execution, the overall effect putting this reader in mind of Tom Ripley reimagined by Cormac McCarthy.- Declan Burke
This review is republished with the kind permission of It’s A Crime!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 1,098: Patricia Rainsford

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?
Hard choice but probably DARKNESS, TAKE MY HAND, by Dennis Lehane.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
To be honest I watch TV for guilty pleasure – would you be shocked if I told you I watch Charmed sometimes?
Most satisfying writing moment?
Always when I get to the place where the writing starts to have a momentum of its own.
The best Irish crime novel is ...?
THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O’Brien.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE THIRD POLICEMAN.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Just like in life – the worst thing is being misunderstood. The best – being understood.
The pitch for your next novel is ...?
“War, huh, yeah – what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again ...”
Who are you reading right now?
Lillian Hellman.
The three best words to describe your own writing are ...?
Too embarrassing, sorry! (That’s three words - will it do?)

Patricia Rainsford’s A SECRET PLACE is released in paperback on February 28

The Embiggened O # 948: January No Longer The Cruellest Month – Official!

Lawksamussy! It’s been a roller-coaster year for our humble offering THE BIG O and no mistake, with all sorts of nice people being all sorts of nice about us. The latest hup-ya comes courtesy of the wunnerful folks at January Magazine, who’ve been kind enough to include us in their ‘Best Books of 2007: Crime Fiction’ round-up. To wit:
THE BIG O by Declan Burke (Hag’s Head) 288 pages
Irish wordsmith Burke took a huge gamble on his second crime novel (after EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, 2003), splitting the costs of publishing it with Dublin indie house Hag’s Head Press -- “a 50-50 costs and profits deal,” as the author describes the negotiation. Fortunately, that gamble appears to have paid off, with American house Harcourt agreeing to release Burke’s book in the States next fall and THE BIG O being shortlisted for one of the inaugural Spinetingler Awards. Although Burke has done a yeoman’s job of publicizing his work, it takes more than self-promotion to make a success -- and unquestionably, THE BIG O is a big ol’ success, a tale fuelled by the mischievous spirits of Donald E. Westlake, Elmore Leonard and even Carl Hiaasen, but not slavishly imitating any of their works. The premise is simple: Frank is an incompetent plastic surgeon who wants to make a few extra bucks off his ex-wife, Madge, while she’s still covered by his insurance policy. The idea is to have her professionally kidnapped, then collect the insurance payoff and live a little happier ever after than he had expected to before, with a younger girlfriend. But as with most comic capers, when things go wrong, they go wrong in a fucked-up-royal way. Turns out that the guy tapped to snatch the aforementioned Madge is Ray Brogan, a painter who baby-sits people for kidnap gangs. Coincidentally, Ray has fallen recently for Karen, a motorcycle-riding bank robber in her spare time, who also happens -- get this -- to be the aforementioned Frank’s office assistant. Further contributing to the delightful confusion in THE BIG O is that the lovely Karen’s former partner, the style-challenged Rossi Francis Assisi Callaghan, has just been released from prison and is determined to get his money, gun and motorbike back from Karen. Naturally, every fool inhabiting these pages decides that he or she can get a larger piece of the action by scamming the scammers at their own game. So, do I have to point out the screeching, smoking wheels to make it clear that a train wreck is in the offing? Author Burke must keep a lot of balls in the air for this tale to work, but he makes it look easy, switching points of view frequently and maintaining a high level of tension that should have been harder to pull off than it seems. I’m not usually a fan of comic crime fiction, preferring the darker variety. But THE BIG O kept me reading at speed -- and laughing the whole damn time. -- J. Kingston Pierce
Mmmm, lovely. Just goes to show what can be achieved with a little gentle persuasion via a length of rubber hose

Books Of The Year # 3: SATURDAY’S CHILD, by Ray Banks*

Being the continuing stooooooory of our ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation to fill a gap between some interesting stuff. To wit:
SATURDAY’S CHILD by Ray Banks
Still on parole after his release from Strangeways, and half-committed to running a PI operation from the back of the Manchester gym run by his buddy Paulo, Cal Innes finds himself trapped between a rock and a rockier place when local hood Morris Tiernan asks him to track down a dealer who has done a bunk with a bag of swag from one of Tiernan’s illegal gambling dens. Problems enough for Cal, whose conditions of parole naturally preclude him from associating with the criminal fraternity, but when Tiernan’s psychotic son Mo takes a personal interest in Cal’s case, things quickly spiral out of control. Laced with pitch-black humour, SATURDAY’S CHILD finds us in the kind of territory Ted Lewis carved out in JACK’S RETURN HOME (aka GET CARTER) – literally, as the action moves to Newcastle – with boxing fan Cal more than punching above his weight in such illustrious company. But while SATURDAY’S CHILD is a masterclass in generating story via character, and deserves to be lauded as one of Britain’s finest examples of gritty noir, it’s Banks’ flair for character that allows him to sidestep the conventions of the genre. Utterly compelling, Innes is a flawed hero who confounds the classic trope of the tarnished knight – Banks, in concentrating on the flawed aspect of his protagonist, takes Cal beyond the horizon and into a whole new realm. Cal isn’t simply a good guy doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, as is often the case. His flaws set the paradigm of the story, spilling out off the margins and resonating long after the final page is turned. The conventional flawed hero will generally find redemption, no matter how poisoned it is, a redemption that allows him to accommodate his various and occasionally homicidal flaws, content in the knowledge that his unique talents are required if society is to sleep peacefully at night. But in pushing his painfully realistic creation to the limit, and beyond, of what is acceptable in a fictional hero of the crime novel, Banks poses tough questions about our willingness to swallow the sugar-coated pill of traditional crime narrative resolution, querying our desire to believe in tough guy equivalents of tooth fairies. If it’s simple answers that you require of your crime fiction, pat resolutions and happy-ever-afters, SATURDAY’S CHILD will prove a harrowing experience. This Saturday’s child doesn’t just work hard for a living; he’s working hard just to live. Bleakly, desperately funny, Ray Banks offers us a glimpse of what Samuel Beckett might have read like had he turned his hand to crime fiction.- Declan Burke
* Yep, we know it came out last year. We're slow readers, okay?

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “It’s possible that Banville is the best writer at work in the genre at the moment, in terms of artfulness at least. His prose is simply brilliant, gorgeous and evocative and poetic. The sentences he writes stun, the descriptions of the people and the city seem lovingly penned,” says Fiona Walker of Benny Blanco's THE SILVER SWAN over at Euro Crime. “Grubby, creepy, sexy and dark, THE SILVER SWAN marks John Banville’s arrival as an unlikely new voice on the crime scene, rather than a snooty one-off visitor slumming it,” reckons Claire Sutherland at Perth Now. Over at the Daily Telegraph, Susanna Yager agrees: “Benjamin Black, John Banville’s crime alter ego, has followed up the acclaimed CHRISTINE FALLS with THE SILVER SWAN, another beautifully written but bleak tale featuring the melancholy pathologist, Quirke.” As does Joanna Hines at Time Out: “Black / Banville is unable to suppress his delight in observation and description, the need to stay and explore the endless present moment, and that is both the glory and the downfall of this valiant effort to fit in with a particular genre … This novel will probably appeal more to Banville’s existing fans than to anyone expecting the undemanding promise held out by crime fiction.” Hmm, snooty. No such quibbles from Jake Kerridge, also at the Daily Telegraph: “If CHRISTINE FALLS was an angrier book, [THE SILVER SWAN] is sadder. Black ensures that the familiar satisfactions of unravelling a mystery plot lead us to a very unsatisfying fact: that despicable crimes stem as easily from the most humdrum emotions of ordinary people as from the machinations of the power-hungry.” Meanwhile, here’s a late one for CHRISTINE FALLS: “A stylish, atmospheric thriller that is both beautifully written and solidly plotted … this elegantly crafted book with its haunting story is deeply satisfying,” raves Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, via Mystery Books Reviews. Onward to Claire Kilroy’s most recent offering: “TENDERWIRE is a carefully-balanced book, constructed with as much skill and precision as the instrument at the centre of it, and as haunting as the strains of its music,” says Hags, Harlots and Heroines, via Faye L. Booth They’re still tumbling in for IN THE WOODS, to wit: “Just finished IN THE WOODS by Tana French and loved it. A great atmospheric mystery ...” says Janey at Book Crossing. “Brilliant! I enjoyed this book more than any I have read for quite a while. It is very well written and the story builds up beautifully. An astonishing first novel. It is very atmospheric and weaves a web of intrigue. The characters are believable and the whole book is excellent,” reckons one of the Bailiff Bridge Library Crime Readers’ Group. Oline H. Cogdill at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel includes IN THE WOODS in her ‘Best of 2007 debuts’ round-up: “An intelligent, atmospheric thriller blends the gothic novel with the modern mystery.” Spookily, the Baltimore Sun agrees virtually word-for-word: “Beautifully written, this intelligent thriller is laden with an atmosphere that blends shades of the gothic novel with the modern mystery.” On to Ronan Bennett’s latest: “ZUGZWANG is a novel worth a few days of your time, and if you love the game of chess, you won’t be able to get enough of this text that profiles the somewhat bizarre traits of a few well known chess players,” says iGoChess. There’s a double whammy for Andrew Nugent from Jill at Murder By The Book: “THE FOUR COURTS MURDER is written in the wry, elegant style of Cyril Hare and Edmund Crispin; SECOND BURIAL FOR A BLACK PRINCE is a more serious and affecting work, exploring the murder of a member of London’s Nigerian community with sensitivity, power, and astonishing insights into a little-known culture.” Mmm, lovely … LitMs at the Stinging Fly discussion board likes Mia Gallagher’s HELLFIRE quite a lot, to wit: “An amazing book – from its sprawling dark mythology to its spot-on Dublin skanger speak. A vivid, audacious, messy masterpiece … a brave and rare achievement.” Finally, Gerard Donovan’s JULIUS WINSOME is still generating raves, and from all points on the globe. First to the Caribbean: “The writing is sparse yet superb. The characters are heavy yet approachable. The story is quick yet involved. The result is an enthralling expose on the fall of an ostensibly normal man who is doomed by his inability to allow emotions or morality to impact fundamental decisions,” says a reader’s review at ttgapers, while Brienne Burnett, at The Program in Oz, is also impressed: “As a novel JULIUS WINSOME is constructed and written extremely well, with each chapter journeying you through Julius’s mental states which alternate from grief to anger to detached madness … The story ends like it begins, mysterious and quaint. It really is a lovely piece of writing.” It most certainly is that, ma’am …

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Books Of The Year # 2: THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR by Gene Kerrigan

Being the continuing stooooooory of our ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation to fill a gap between some interesting stuff. To wit:
THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR, by Gene Kerrigan.
This is a wonderful book, superbly well written. The promise of Kerrigan’s previous book, LITTLE CRIMINALS, is more than fulfilled in this elegiac novel of corruption in Ireland. The book begins by describing various apparently unconnected events; one in Galway, where Garda Joe Mills is called on to try to stop a desperate man jumping from a pub roof; and a couple of others in Dublin, where Detective Inspector Harry Synnott investigates a rape accusation made against the son of a rich local lawyer, where a desperate woman threatens to stab a tourist with a syringe full of blood for cash, and where businessman Joshua Boyce is planning a raid on a jeweller’s shop. As these stories play out, weaving in and out of each other, corruption small and large is all-pervasive. Whether trapped in poverty, addicted to drugs, desperate to keep a family together or wanting to preserve a pleasant lifestyle, everyone is on the take, selling each other out, hiding unsavoury truths or aiming to stay on top of the organised crime heap. Almost the only character with integrity is Harry, who has been moved from several police stations previously because he has blown the whistle on past cases of police “stitch-ups”, much to the disgust of many of his erstwhile and present colleagues. But is all what it seems? Is Harry really a hero, or is he part of the tapestry of deceit that threads through the narrative? The answers to these questions become clearer after he meets up with John Grace, a main character in Kerrigan’s previous book, LITTLE CRIMINALS. Grace is taking early retirement and goes through his files of old cases with Harry. In this scene, we begin to get the true picture of Harry’s moral perspective. Remembering his old friend, a priest, one night, “Synnott listened to the city sounds, the chugging noise of traffic mixed in with occasional catcalls and burst of laughter. As he drifted towards sleep, individual voices, each with its own energy and purpose, blended into a muffled chorus, a refrain both solemn and threatening.” I loved everything about this book. THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR is truly bleak, at times violent and disturbing, but always brilliant. The way in which the plots overlap and sometimes merge in a horridly inevitable cause and effect is masterly. Although I applaud the lack of sentimentality, I was glad that the reader is left with a spark of optimism in the shape of at least two police officers who know how to do the right thing.- Maxine Clarke
This review was first published on Euro Crime. Maxine Clarke blogs at Petrona.