Despite the plethora of crime fiction tropes, however, GARCÍA’S HEART owes more of a debt to Graham Greene than Raymond Chandler. Beautifully written though it is, its elegiac tone lacks the rapid pace that would qualify it as a conventional thriller. Neither, despite Patrick’s role as the seeker after truth, is it a variation on the private investigator novel, as Patrick is a largely passive character, a receptacle of information rather that its conduit.
Nonetheless, GARCÍA’S HEART is a real page-turner. Durcan has a deliciously light style that wears its learning lightly, offering pithy insights into the human condition that are laced with bone-dry flashes of humour (“It turns out Roberto and Elyse were pretty intimate,” Nina said with the seriousness that weapons-grade gossip demanded.). He also asks some profound questions of the human condition, as in this exchange between Hernan’s lawyer and Patrick:
“I mean, I can see it, you know. The brain determines our mental states, how we feel, and brain function is subject to physical laws; it’s determined.”In the end, the answers Patrick uncovers to these and other questions are messy, unsatisfactory and inconclusive. Durcan, himself a neurologist, refuses to deal in simplistic notions of good and evil and cause-and-effect, and nor is he overly concerned with the illusion of closure that characterises the crime / mystery genre. Instead he offers a downbeat but perfectly logical denouement that may well leave crime and mystery readers dissatisfied in the short term, but which offers hope to those who believe that a novel concerned with the traditional tropes of crime and criminality can be greater than the sum of its parts. – Declan Burke
“So, where is his free will? How can he be guilty? How can anybody be guilty?”