“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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD by Declan Hughes

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sounds my kinda thing. I've hardly dipped my toe in the Irish Crime scene, having read Bateman and...well, just Bateman, actually. This sounds like my proverbial cuppa, though. I'll add it to my Amazon wishlist forthwith.

Mike S

Declan Burke said...

Mike - If a more hardboiled take on Ross Macdonald grabs you, this could well be your cup of Darjeeling ... Cheers, Dec

Dana King said...

Interesting timing. I just finished Hughes' third book, THE PRICE OF BLOOD, and was skimming the web before writing a review when I saw this.

I think of Declan Hughes as the Irish Raymond Chandler for all the reasons in the review cited here, with a little Ross Macdonald thrown in, for his use of family histories gone horribly wrong.

THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD has my favorite opening sentence of all time: The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth, and asked me to find her husband.

(Actually it's the first sentence of Chapter One, but close enough.)

Declan Burke said...

Dana - That is a terrific opening line, isn't it? Wonderful stuff ... Be sure and let me know where to find your Price of Blood (it's called The Dying Breed this side of the pond) review, I'll link to it for the Monday Review. Cheers, Dec

Andrew said...

I have to say I found the fake Dublin a bit annoying. Why not just set it in Dublin?

Declan Burke said...

Andrew - Can't speak for Declan Hughes, but for my first book I 'fictionalised' Sligo because (a) the place wasn't big enough to support the kind of bloodbath I had planned, and (b) I needed to make it a fiction in order to set a fiction there (basically I made it a lot bigger). It was only afterwards I was told that the word Sligo is never mentioned ... although it's blatantly obvious that that's where it's set. (Later on I read in one of Adrian McKinty's books that Sligo is apparently renowned for its 'cow-fuckers', although I can honestly claim to know nothing about that. And if it was going on, I'd probably have heard something at some stage. You would, wouldn't you?) Cheers, Dec

Andrew said...

Not knowing Sligo I didn't notice the fictional bigness of it the same way I do with Dublin - although you do expect some artistic licence.

It just seems odd that if you're going to base a book in Dublin that you'd make up place names rather than just use the real names.