“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, March 29, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE DEAD YARD by Adrian McKinty

Winston Churchill once joked that the United States and the United Kingdom were two great nations separated by a common language. Adrian McKinty is Irish, so I hope he’s not offended by the comparison, but wading through some of the trans-Atlantic terminology is all that keeps his new book, THE DEAD YARD, from reading as effortlessly as watching a movie.
  Be grateful that THE DEAD YARD isn’t a movie, at least not yet. It has all the makings of a good one, but would still be best enjoyed as a novel. McKinty’s seemingly effortless prose moves your eye through the story with the ease and fluidity of a Rolls. Protagonist Michael Forsythe takes a hellacious beating through much of this book, and can’t catch a break, yet manages to observe most of what goes on with enough detachment to keep things from being ponderous without going for the big laugh.
  Forsythe has a tough life. Taking out an entire Irish mob got him a seat in the federal Witness Protection Program. He’s still concerned enough about the open contract on his head to choose to vacation in the Canary Islands, where he’s minding his own business when he gets caught up in a soccer riot and arrested by Spanish police. British MI6 can spring him, but they have a small favour to ask: infiltrate a splinter cell of the IRA in the States before it can ruin the truce arranged by Tony Blair’s new government in the late Nineties.
  Forsythe is a likeable anti-hero, in his own repulsive way, always looking for an angle, even if he will eventually do the right thing. The characters around him are a well-rounded and absorbing lot, even the psychos. Gerry McCaghan came to America and re-invented himself as a renaissance man who now owns a construction company and spouts Latin at every opportunity (appropriateness is optional) to impress his new, much younger wife. He doesn’t need to; she loves him to death, ignoring his tolerance for violence with her own 21st century version of radical chic. Touched McGuigan is so crazy people can call him ‘Touched’ to his face and he doesn’t mind. Gerry’s daughter Kit wants to follow in the old man’s footsteps but sometimes lacks the fortitude. Then again, sometimes she doesn’t. She’s only nineteen, and McKinty keeps her as confusing and confounding to Forsythe and the reader as her circumstances must seem to herself.
  McKinty dresses his tale in enough historical perspective to keep things grounded. His MI6 and FBI agents are twisted enough to be believable without becoming caricatures, dedicated without being corny. He knows his players’ strengths and uses them in proper proportions to balance the story, keeping the reader in the air as much as Forsythe is about how straight his handlers are being with him and how dangerous Gerry’s crew might be until the story starts hurtling downward into its violent ending.
  The ending is, in its way, the weakest part of THE DEAD YARD. It’s well written and exciting, but asks a bit much of Forsythe. His suffering reaches Gibsonian Passion of the Christ levels, yet he still has enough in the tank to just about saw off a baddies’ head with a piece of broken Coke bottle. A hard man who is no stranger to violence through most of the book, by the end he is the Terminator with a prosthetic foot, hopping around to wreak his vengeance on those who deserve it, which by that time is pretty much everyone in the area.
  Be not deterred; by then McKinty has earned his indulgence. THE DEAD YARD is a ripping good yarn, told with an aplomb that often disguises the quality of the writing. McKinty is a talent, and savvy enough to plant the seeds of at least one more sequel between the lines of the current instalment. (THE DEAD YARD is the second Michael Forsythe book, McKinty’s third.) McKinty makes three kick-ass Irish mystery writers I’ve discovered for myself in less than a year (John Connolly and Declan Hughes are the others). Me auld grandda Dougherty would be proud. – Dana King

This review first appeared at the New Mystery Reader

Friday, March 28, 2008

What Lily Did Next


A Minister for Propaganda Elf writes: Erm, Lil’ Lily has done very little, as you might expect. Sleeping, feeding, grizzling, pooping … Lily appears to be very much her father’s daughter. Other than that, however, she has shown very little interest in pursuing the multiple careers of nuclear physicist, concert pianist and Grand Vizieress that the Grand Vizier has planned for her, although perhaps it might yet be a bit too early to expect dramatic developments. However, we trust that by Monday there will have been a breakthrough or two. In the meantime, Mr & Mrs Grand Vizier would like to express their heartfelt thanks for all the messages of goodwill and congratulations they’ve received via blog, email and phone-text, and rest assured they will endeavour to respond to them all, even though it’s likely to take until 2012 to do so. Finally, anyone who loves books and / or children will love this, courtesy of Sharon Wheeler and Kelli Stanley, both of whom obviously have the same identically impeccable taste.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mr and Mrs Grand Vizier Would Like To Announce ...


A Minister for Propaganda Elf writes: Mr and Mrs Grand Vizier would like to announce the arrival of Princess Lily (above, right) at 5.20pm on Wednesday March 26th, weighing 8lbs 12ozs, and looking remarkably like her mother at the same age if Grandad Vizier is to be believed. She currently possesses a fine pair of lungs, a grand head of dark curly hair, and her father’s heart. Further updates will follow, albeit erratically, as the Grand Vizier is suffering badly from 'Recent Father Syndrome', so please bear with us, as the normal useless service will resume shortly, aka just as soon as we can stop posting pics of Sleeping Beauty ...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 2,044: John McAllister

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?
THE BLACK ICE by Michael Connelly. THE BLACK ICE ties in back family history with the actual plot in a superb way.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Freddie Croft in Dick Francis’ DRIVING FORCE. Freddie was a nice, hardworking, decent guy. You couldn’t understand why he had such a complicated private life.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Douglas Reeman. His novels remind me of my youth and a style of writing that has long since passed.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I complete the penultimate chapter of a new novel. For some reason the final chapter is always complete in my head.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Has not been written yet. They either have literary pretensions or have alcoholic, anti-social main characters that you can’t care about.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
My own novel, LINE OF FLIGHT.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The blank screen / Somebody saying they read your book and enjoyed it.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Title: STEINER. Steiner joined the FBI, not to protect the American way of life, mamma and apple pie, but to bring down the senator who killed his mother. But before Steiner can act, a wanted assassin recognises him, and from then on Steiner must keep running in order to survive …
Who are you reading right now?
Tess Gerritsen – the fifth of her novels on the trot. You know exactly what the characters are doing and why, and you still don’t know how it’s all going to end.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’d ask the devil for a second opinion.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Story Story Story.

LINE OF FLIGHT is John McAllister’s debut novel.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Jury Remains Out: THE THIRD POLICEMAN

Acclaimed as literary novels, they are steeped in crime – but is it kosher to call them Irish crime fiction novels? YOU (via the comment box, natch) decide! This week: Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN.

A masterpiece of black humour from the renowned comic and acclaimed author of AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS – Flann O’Brien. A thriller, a hilarious comic satire about an archetypal village police force, a surrealistic vision of eternity, the story of a tender, brief, unrequited love affair between a man and his bicycle, and a chilling fable of unending guilt, THE THIRD POLICEMAN is comparable only to ALICE IN WONDERLAND as an allegory of the absurd. Distinguished by endless comic invention and its delicate balancing of logic and fantasy, THE THIRD POLICEMAN is unique in the English language. – Amazon UK

Flann O’Brien’s most popular and surrealistic novel concerns an imaginary but hellish village police force and a local murder. Weird, satirical, and very funny, its popularity has suddenly increased with the mention of the novel in the TV film Lost. Here it comes to life in a new unabridged recording. “Even with ULYSSES and FINNEGANS WAKE behind him, James Joyce might have been envious,” wrote one critic about the work of Flann O’Brien. – Amazon UK (audio CD)

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “Tough, ironically self-aware, loyal, Ed [Loy] is the perfect Chandleresque hero. But the book’s various twists, including rumours of Catholic abuse at a now-closed home for boys, wrap themselves around a dense core of Irish authenticity, all the voices pitch-perfect, all the developments dark,” says P.G. Koch at the Houston Chronicle of THE DYING BREED (aka THE PRICE OF BLOOD). Here at CAP, some chancing wastrel called Declan Burke agrees: “THE DYING BREED is a complex, labyrinthine, gritty, coarse (and, yes, bloody) novel that exudes a brash confidence and an ambition that lies beyond its grasp – a description, it should be said, that could easily be applied to the nation that spawned the novel.” As does Diana Pinckley at the Times-Picayune: “THE PRICE OF BLOOD is violent yet compelling. If it’s Irish action you want, pick up this book and you’ll be off to the races.” Then there’s Answer Girl’s hup-ya: “What [Loy] finds is a horrifying tangle of lies, abuse and perversion that owes a bit to Webster’s THE DUCHESS OF MALFI. Very well done, as disturbing as anything I’ve read in a while, and appropriate to St. Patrick’s Day only in making me feel I needed a drink after.” As for Entertainment Weekly: “PI Ed Loy fancies himself a Dashiell Hammett throwback (picture Bogart with a brogue) … Since Declan Hughes suggests in THE PRICE OF BLOOD that those who remember Irish history are often doomed to repeat it, it’s no wonder his Dubliners are always after a drink: In Ireland, forgetfulness begets prosperity. B+,” says Jake Tracer. Onwards to Brian McGilloway’s latest: “If you like the books of Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson or other police procedurals, you’ll want to pick up the book BORDERLANDS by Brian McGilloway … I’ve just finished the advance reading copy of the second book in the series (coming in April) called GALLOW’S LANE. It’s just as good, if better not than the first book,” says
Rosalyn at The Dewey Divas and the Dudes. A couple of early reviews for Derek Landy’s follow-up to SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, PLAYING WITH FIRE: “It’s a wild supernatural romp with vampires, skeletons, monsters, giant spiders, and other seriously creepy creatures. There’s plenty of action (it’s almost movie script-like in its pace) to keep even the most reluctant reader interested, but my favourite part was the snappy dialogue. Skulduggery is sarcastic, clever, and funny, which I suppose is an appropriate tone for a skeleton detective,” says Jenny at Insert Clever Title Here. Staying with Landy, The Siblings Scarington couldn’t really be more positive: “Landy’s strengths from the first book are back, and perfected. The pacing is spot on. There are no wasted scenes, and the book never loses steam … you’ll find yourself barrelling through the book because the action just never stops … Superior in every way to the first, SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT: PLAYING WITH FIRE is a thrill ride of excitement that never lets up and will capture a child’s imagination with its tale of danger and suspense!” Boo-ya! Meanwhile, back at Ronan O’Brien’s ranch-shaped interweb yokeybus: “CONFESSIONS OF A FALLEN ANGEL is a fresh, highly original debut by a writer not afraid to take on the bigger issues of life. Fate and love in their many guises stalk these pages, as well as a man who, like the hero in a Greek tragedy, rails against the destiny mapped out to him, trying only to safeguard what he holds dear. It will grip you from the first paragraph,” says Maggie O’Farrell … A quick couple of big-ups for Catherine O’Flynn’s debut: “If there is criticism to be made of WHAT WAS LOST, it’s that the storylines are too swiftly and neatly wrapped up in the conclusion … But for a debut novel, WHAT WAS LOST is amazingly accomplished,” says Pete Carvill of 3AM Magazine. The outrageously suave Suave Harv agrees: “I thoroughly enjoyed Catherine O’Flynn’s WHAT WAS LOST. One of the best new novels I’ve read for quite a while. Splendid stuff.” They’re still coming in for Benny Blanco: “Black (pseudonym of Booker Prize–winner John Banville) is a fine writer, reminiscent of P.D. James in his care for language and his emphasis on psychologically complex characters … Black weaves his characters through a neat and original plot that descends into the dark depths of Quirke's family history and rises to the highest ranks of the Catholic church,” says Paul at The Journal of a Good Life about CHRISTINE FALLS. Of Books and Bicycles likes THE SILVER SWAN: “I enjoyed the book for its plot, but even more so for the relationships the novel describes; as happens in some of the other crime novels I’ve read, the crime seems almost like an excuse to throw some characters together in difficult circumstances to see how they behave themselves.” Back to Rosalyn at The Dewey Divas and the Dudes for her verdict on Cora Harrison’s debut: “If you like historical mysteries, you’ll love MY LADY JUDGE, the first book in a new series by Cora Harrison set in the 16th century in the remote region of Ireland called The Burren. Fans of Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma series will enjoy …” Apis Mellifica likes Gerard Donovan’s JULIUS WINSOME: “Is this a descent into madness or a reasoned response to calculated conspiracy involving his former lover? In its neatness, the ending disappoints, but the journey there is a wild ride poetically blanketed in the onset of winter’s weather.” Over at Hour, MJ Stone is impressed with Liam Durcan’s debut: “Once I cracked open GARCIA’S HEART, I couldn’t put it down … Durcan’s debut novel was both captivating and eloquent.” Chris at The Book Swede likes DB Shan’s PROCESSION OF THE DEAD: “Written well, funny in places, and a captivating read … This is a good book, and the characterisation was one of the best bits. Sadly, though, there seemed to be a sudden change in many characters attitudes towards the end of the book, but on the whole, I was surprised by just how good this was.” Critical Mick has come out swinging on behalf of IN THE WOODS: “Tana French has put her name to a book worth stealing, and worth fighting over.” Thank you, Mr Mick … A couple of strong reviews for Sam Millar’s latest: “This is a tale of revenge, greed and hate, and Kane is surrounded by people he cannot trust. The writing is bleak and raw, best accompanied by a stiff drink or two. BLOODSTORM does what is says on the cover, and bludgeons you with the grime and fury of an existence you can be relieved is either in fiction, or belongs to somebody else,” says Adrian Magson at Crime Reports in Shots Magazine. Shelley Marsden at The Irish World (no link) agrees: “Brutal language and bleak, darkly comic undercurrents … powerful and unsettling writing, that seeps into your bones like Belfast rain … Recommended reading by the NI Tourist Board this is not, but as a straight-talking crime thriller, it’s at the top ...” They’re still coming in for Eoin Colfer’s ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LOST COLONY: “I really enjoy [the Artemis Fowl series] because it’s the anti-Potter. It’s a series that’s just as intriguing and well-written as Harry Potter, but without all the baggage that’s been attached to it,” reckons The Pew Reviews. The inevitable Ken Bruen big-up runneth thusly: “The prolific Bruen has three series going: Galway, London and America are the settings. And his Irish gift for words is in full flower, portraying loneliness with a description of Taylor charging his cell phone every day, even though no one ever calls him on it: “Carried it like a sad prayer in my jacket,”” says Diana Pinckley at the Times-Picayune. Over at The Telegraph, Dinah Hall laments Siobhan Dowd’s untimely death: “Siobhan Dowd died shortly after writing her third novel, BOG CHILD, which makes reading it a painful pleasure because you can’t help wondering what other great books might have been … Dowd’s lightness of touch allows humour and poignancy to shine through.” Finally, a couple of hup-yas for Lord John of Connolly: “This glorious novel is built about the Irish author’s love of storytelling and the supernatural … A wonderful book to read aloud to the family or hug to yourself which embraces not just the Celtic tradition but the Brothers Grimm,” says Lorri Amsden at Poisoned Pen Fiction Review of THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. And over at Entertainment Weekly (via Powell’s Books), they’re impressed with THE UNQUIET: “Gimmicks aside, complex hero Parker is the chief draw in THE UNQUIET – he’s got a revenge-inspired evil streak to him, but metes out justice freely to those who truly deserve it. (Grade: B)”. Erm, Lord John? We know a few elves who merit some justice, if you wouldn’t mind calling around with your velvet cat o’nine tails …

A Working Class Hero Is Something To Be

It’s all coming up Sam Millar-shaped, people. The always excellent Verbal Magazine has an interview with Sam, a snippet of which runneth thusly:
“I always wanted to be a writer. After my mother left when I was young, I found great strength in reading. However, I came from a working class background and didn’t think something like this would ever happen to me.”
Happily, it is. Crime Scene Norn Iron has the news that Sam’s latest, BLOODSTORM, has pole-vaulted into the best-seller charts, according to the Belfast Telegraph, with CSNI’s Chief Panjandrum Gerard Brennan also dropping the intriguing news that the novel is only the first of a projected series featuring Karl Kane. Finally, Shots Mag has done the decent thing, featuring a major big-up of BLOODSTORM courtesy of author Adrian Magson, which kicks off thusly:
“I can confidently say that BLOODSTORM, Sam Millar’s latest novel, is the first I have read where the central character is suffering from piles, and where the reader has to undergo a detailed description of a rectal examination to prove it. I glossed over that bit.”
Trust us, the review gets much more positive as it progresses …

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lingua Franca

It’s been a good month for Tana French (right), people. First her debut novel IN THE WOODS was nominated for an Edgar, then the Los Angeles Book Festival Awards, and then she was nominated for an Irish Book Award. Now, courtesy of The Rap Sheet, comes the news that IN THE WOODS has been nominated for ‘Best First Novel’ by The Strand Magazine, the full list of nominees running thusly:
• THE BLADE ITSELF by Marcus Sakey (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
• IN THE WOODS, by Tana French (Viking)
• THE MARK, by Jason Pinter (Mira Books)
• MISSING WITNESS, by Gordon Campbell (Morrow)
• WHEN ONE MAN DIES, by Dave White (Crown Publishing)
And not only that, but occasional CAP elf and head honcho at International Crime, Bernd Kochanowski, recently gave IN THE WOODS the ‘four-thumbs aloft’ review. It’s going to be a big ask for the ever-lovely Tana to repeat the performance with the sequel, THE LIKENESS, but we have faith in her. What’s that? Our humble opinions are worthless? Fair go. But maybe you’ll be more accommodating of Critical Mick’s verdict on what’s quickly becoming Irish crime fiction’s news story of the year …

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

The ever-lovely people at William Morrow are giving away three copies of the ever-ravishing Laura Lippman’s ANOTHER THING TO FALL, via the distinctly unlovely and unravishing Crime Always Pays, with the blurb elves outdoing themselves thusly:
The California dream weavers have invaded Charm City with their cameras, their stars, and their controversy … When private investigator Tess Monaghan literally runs into the crew of the fledgling TV series Mann of Steel while sculling, she expects sharp words and evil looks, not an assignment. But the company has been plagued by a series of disturbing incidents since its arrival on location in Baltimore: bad press, union threats, and small, costly on-set “accidents” that have wreaked havoc with its shooting schedule. As a result, Mann’s creator, Flip Tumulty, the son of a Hollywood legend, is worried for the safety of his young female lead, Selene Waites, and asks Tess to serve as her bodyguard/babysitter. Tumulty’s concern may be well founded. Not long ago a Baltimore man was discovered dead in his own home, surrounded by photos of the beautiful, difficult superstar-in-the-making. In the past, Tess has had enough trouble guarding her own body. Keeping a spoiled movie princess under wraps may be more than she can handle—even with the help of Tess’s icily unflappable friend Whitney—since Selene is not as naive as everyone seems to think, and far more devious than she initially appears to be. This is not Tess’s world. And these are not her kind of people, with their vanities, their self-serving agendas and invented personas, and their remarkably skewed visions of reality—from the series’ aging, shallow, former pretty-boy leading man to its resentful, always-on-the-make co-writer to the officious young assistant who may be too hungry for her own good. But the fish-out-of-water P.I. is abruptly pulled back in by an occurrence she’s all too familiar with—murder. Suddenly the wall of secrets around Mann of Steel is in danger of toppling, leaving shattered dreams, careers, and lives scattered among the ruins—a catastrophe that threatens the people Tess cares about … and the city she loves.
To be in with a chance of winning a free copy, just answer the following question.
Is Laura Lippman’s husband:
(a) A Mann of Steel;
(b) Remington Steele;
(c) Some lucky dude who may or may not have something to do with a TV series set in Baltimore?
Answers to dbrodb(at)gmail.com, putting ‘Isn’t it time for a remake of Moonlighting?’ in the subject line, before noon on Tuesday 25th March. Et bon chance, mes amis