Declan Hughes has done a great job with this, his debut novel. THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD introduces us to Ed Loy, a PI who has returned from LA to his native Dublin for his mother’s funeral. Although his plan is to bury his mother and get the hell out of Dodge, he gets caught up in a missing person’s investigation that leads to a cluster of brutal murders. Organised crime, dirty politics, drugs, guns, property development; this noir story gets acquainted with the modern Dirty Ol’ Town and shares a bottle of Jameson with it. Then things get ugly.
Hughes is a great writer who enjoys taking a minute to stop and take in his settings. At times his prose takes on a poetic quality. Take this gem: “We were standing on the terrace of the Bayview Hotel, watching a bloated old moon hoist itself slowly above the sea.” Gorgeous, right? Well, the novel is full of this kind of stuff, which I enjoyed for the most part. But to be completely honest, I’d have trimmed a few of these instances. At times the pacing was a little bogged down by description, and a harsher edit would have helped this.
Hughes can also be a teensy bit guilty of superfluous writing. Example: “Tommy was sitting in the porch, rolling up a three-skinner, heating a small block of dope with a cigarette lighter and crumbling the edges into the tobacco.” Another writer might have gone with, “Tommy skinned up in the porch.” But I’m being very picky here. You might argue that I had trouble finding something negative to weigh up my review of this book – and I’d concede the point. My defence? Strong work is hard to critique.
Happily, these instances take nothing away from an impressively well-constructed plot with some clever twists and a very satisfying denouement. I thought Ed Loy’s character was a real good ‘un. Heroic, but with enough flaws to make him interesting and likeable. I’ll be very interested in how his life develops as this series continues. The second Ed Loy mystery, THE COLOUR OF BLOOD is available now, and I plan to revisit Hughes’ dark and brooding work as soon as I can. – Gerard Brennan
Gerard Brennan can be found right here.
“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.