It’s not often I get reviews in a foreign language, mainly because my books haven’t been translated into many foreign languages, but Yvon at Eireann, a blog dedicated to books of Irish and Brittany, has done EIGHT-BALL BOOGIE proud. To wit:
EIGHTBALL BOOGIE / Declan BURKE.
Note: 4.5 / 5
Punchball & skeet-shooting!
This is the first work of this Irish author to be translated into French, and the first which I have read, but in any case this book proves the good health of the Irish detective novel.
The action takes place in a city of North-West Ireland, a city which wants to be modern; it attracts money and envy. The end of the year and its celebrations are approaching, but for some, Christmas will not be a distribution of gifts, but of beatings and problems of all kinds.
Right from the first page, we are in the thick of things. It is five in the morning; in her plush house along the coast, Mrs Imelda Sheridan is stabbed to death! Harry, freelance journalist, investigates this death, because the husband of the deceased is a very well-known politician and a deputy of the district. As a representative of a small party, his voice can constantly change the course of certain things. In addition, Harry is charged by Dave Conway, a local businessman, to keep a watch on his wife because he has doubts about her faithfulness.
To further complicate his life, Denise, the ex-wife of Harry, tells him that Gonzo, his brother who disappeared four years ago, is back in town. On top of all those problems, the investigation led by Harry seems to disturb, but who are the people upset? The men who beat him up do not usually leave their cards on the scene! Even the local police is interested in the visit of Conway to Harry’s office.
In spite of this busy timetable, Harry finds time to remember his life and the importance of his brother in this life. As orphans, they were dragged around homes and religious institutions, closing ranks in the face of adversity, but the activities of Gonzo became increasingly erratic, destroying most of the affection Harry had for his brother before his sudden disappearance! And now Gonzo is back, unavoidably trailing behind him a stream of problems.
Harry Rigby, whose official title is ‘research consultant’, is once again an anti-hero in the crime fiction world (which is besides more appealing). Injured by life, living an unhappy childhood, loving a woman he cannot marry anymore, he starts all over again – with another woman who does not love him. His job doesn’t make him richer in money or in spirit, and as icing on the cake, he has a brother who is a source of problems since his childhood. Gonzo, the youngest of the Rigby brothers, comes back suddenly after four years without keeping in touch. An ambiguous but normal situation settles in between the two brothers, with a mix of familial love and profound hatred. But one night takes a tragic turn as booze goes down quite well and Harry is going to finally discover why his brother disappeared during all these years. His ex-wife Denise, who only feels contempt for him, and his son Ben play the part of his family, at least what remains of it. As for Tony Sheridan, he is the classic example of a politician, ready for anything to have power, even if it means to be mixed up in some illegal tricks. Not to forget Joe Baluba, a colourful character who is also unfortunately pathetic because he has been injured by life.
He is going to help Harry, without reservation.
Many supporting characters make this book very alive. As in any good detective novel (and this one is excellent), you can find a woman, preferably very beautiful, and in this one, you have two of them: Helen Conway, unfaithful wife (is she really?) and Katie Donnelly, independent journalist, who was doing a report on Imelda Sheridan at the time of her murder. An associated buddy of Harry, who is a computer specialist but is also addicted to drugs, and a bar owner who is a childhood friend, complete the
gallery of portraits, along with the ‘Laurel and Hardy’ of the city police force.
Being a traditional detective novel, it is nevertheless very modern. The disillusioned and realistic author contemplates present-day Ireland and seems to say “Here is what this country became!”. And everything is looked over, from real estate speculation which transforms a traditional city into a urban nightmare to traffics of all kinds, traffics of influence and drugs, with opportunistic politicians passing briskly from one side to the other. Police officers are anything but representatives of law and order, except if it is their own law they represent. And in addition to the peace of mind of the decent people, the local speciality, which consists in paramilitaries of all sides, replaced the worship of heroes by the one of heroin! To spice all that, sprinkle one pinch of blackmail and some sex and you have a very good novel. Not to forget a sense of humour as black as a slowly poured Guinness.
It is a bitter report of a world where facility, money and power reign supreme and there is something even more terrifying with synthetic drugs and the lucrative industry they created blending with well-established networks mixing avid businessmen and politicians.
Many thanks to Joelle at Bibliodudolmen for providing the translation.
“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.