“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.

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Short List of Irish Crime Writers on Twitter

Being a public service broadcasting-type post, in which - much as the headline suggests - we list the Irish crime writers on Twitter, in no particular order. To (t)wit:
Declan Burke @declanburke
Niamh O’Connor @Crimethrillers
Adrian McKinty @unitedirishman
Gerard Brennan @gerardbrennan
Claire McGowan @inkstainsclaire
Louise Philips @LouiseMPhillips
John Connolly @jconnollybooks
Stuart Neville @stuartneville
Colin Bateman @ColinBateman
Conor Fitzgerald @ConorFitzgerld
Conor Brady @ConorPMBrady
William Ryan @WilliamRyan_
Casey Hill @caseyhillbooks
Alan Glynn @alanglynnbooks
Eoin Colfer @eoincolfer
Jane Casey @JaneCaseyAuthor
Bob Burke @HarryPigg
John J Gaynard @JohnJGaynar
Arlene Hunt @arlenehunt
Rob Kitchin @RobKitchin
Susan Condon @SusanCondon
Laurence O'Bryan @LPOBryan
  So there you have it. If I’ve left anyone out, please let me know and I’ll add them in …

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When In Rome, Change Your Name

An Editor Writes: Conor Fitzgerald’s THE NAMESAKE arrived in the post yesterday, which got me all fired up to write a post about it - and then I realised I already had, last November. Bummer. Oh well, I guess I can take the day off now, and go lounge in my gold-plated hammock with the diamond-encrusted hookah …

It’s only November, but already 2012 is shaping up to be yet another very fine year in Irish crime writing. I’ve already noted that Adrian McKinty’s latest, THE COLD COLD GROUND will be published in January, with Brian O’Connor’s MENACES to follow in February.
  One novel I’m particularly looking forward to is Conor Fitzgerald’s third offering, THE NAMESAKE, which is due in March. Quoth the blurb elves:
When magistrate Matteo Arconti’s namesake, an insurance man from Milan, is found dead outside the court buildings in Piazzo Clodio, it’s a clear warning to the authorities in Rome - a message of defiance and intimidation. Commissioner Alec Blume, interpreting the reference to his other ongoing case - a frustrating one in which he’s so far been unable to pin murder on a mafia boss operating at an untouchable distance in Germany - knows he’s too close to it. Handing control of the investigation to now live-in and not-so-secret partner Caterina Mattiola, Blume takes a back seat. And while Caterina embarks on questioning the Milanese widow, Blume has had an underhand idea of his own to lure the arrogant mafioso out of his hiding place ...
  I’ve been a fan of Conor Fitzgerald since his first outing, THE DOGS OF ROME, and I thought that the follow-up, THE FATAL TOUCH, was sufficiently good to propel him to the first rank of crime writing, Irish or otherwise - if memory serves, I was moved to compare that novel with John Banville’s THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE. If THE NAMESAKE represents a similar improvement on THE FATAL TOUCH, then God help us all …
  Incidentally, it’s interesting that Fitzgerald, who writes under a pseudonym, and is the son of noted Irish poet Seamus Deane, is here playing with notions of identity, and the truth (or otherwise) of names. Post-modern meta-fiction flummery, or simple coincidence? You - yes, YOU! - decide …

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE SILVER STAIN by Paul Johnston

Crete is the setting for Paul Johnston’s 13th novel, THE SILVER STAIN, which sees Johnston’s Athens-based private eye Alex Mavros commissioned by a film producer, Luke Jannet, to find the personal assistant to the American movie star Cara Parks. A straightforward assignment, but Mavros quickly discovers that the events being depicted on the film set - the Nazi invasion of Crete in 1941 - have contemporary resonances that prove lethal.
  Two veterans of the 1941 invasion remain at loggerheads. Rudi Kersten was a German paratrooper who parachuted into Crete in during the invasion, and played his part - albeit reluctantly at times - in the subjugation of the islanders. The fact that the German occupation of Crete was marked by a number of atrocities means that feelings still run high over the events of 1941, and a shadow hangs over Kersten’s involvement in one of those atrocities, despite the fact that his guilt ensured that he returned to Crete long after the war and established the Heavenly Blue Resort, a luxurious hotel on the north coast that has provided investment and employment for Cretans for over 40 years.
  Few of Kersten’s Cretan contemporaries hold the German invasion against him personally, but the fact that the island is witnessing something of a neo-Nazi revival enrages his polar opposite, an ex-British Army officer who served during the defence of Crete, and who believes that Kersten has secrets to hide.
  This historical aspect to the novel is bound up in Mavros’s contemporary investigation when all roads lead to a remote village in the White Mountains, currently renowned as a haven for the drug-growing and smuggling extended family which lives there, but once something of a centre of Cretan resistance, when the andartes, or partisans, were prowling the mountains and sabotaging the German war machine.
  A Scottish author living in Greece, writing about a detective who is half-Scottish, half-Greek, Johnston employs an observer who is ideally placed to make an outsider’s caustic observations about modern Crete, yet knows the terrain well enough to give the setting a vividly authentic feel. In fact, the setting is one of this novel’s most attractive elements: despite being at the heart of European civilisation for the best part of four thousand years, Cretans retain something of a love-hate relationship with the notion of law-and-order, and especially any notion of laws laid down from beyond the shores of Crete.
  It’s worth pointing out that this novel is actually set in 2003, so that it doesn’t provide any real glimpse into the current economic woes and trauma besetting Greece. By the same token, there’s plenty here to suggest that the roots of Greece’s current predicament have very long roots, particularly when it comes to the locals’ laissez-faire attitude towards the rule of law.
  THE SILVER STAIN is a very enjoyable private eye novel in the classic mould, a lovely blend of pacy narrative, deadpan black humour and fascinating historical backdrop. - Declan Burke

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

There Will Be Bloodstock

It’s Cheltenham week, of course, so who else - rhetorical question alert - would we be talking about today other than Ireland’s finest exponent of the horse-racing thriller, Brian O’Connor. Brian’s debut novel, BLOODLINE, was a very fine thriller set in the world of Irish sport of kings, a setting O’Connor has stuck with for his follow-up offering. THREATEN TO WIN (Poolbeg) was published last month, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
Lorcan Donovan is an ex-amateur rider in charge of the bloodstock empire of the billionaire American, Jake Weinberger. But behind the glamour of big-money horse deals and the world’s great races, all is not as it seems. Jockey Mike Clancy is in the pocket of a ruthless Irish gangster and is stopping Weinberger’s great Derby hope from winning. With millions gambled on the result, Donovan becomes a pawn in a vicious game of blackmail, kidnapping and corruption. The race to the finish line becomes a simple race to survive and the only one he can trust is himself.
  Brian O’Connor, incidentally, is a racing correspondent with the Irish Times, so it’s fair to say that he knows of what he speaks. Mind you, if he was that clued-in, he’d be rich as Croesus from betting on the nags, and wouldn’t need to write about them. Wouldn’t he?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Murder Less Ordinary

I had a review of Conor Brady’s A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS published in the Irish Times yesterday, which could well have been a delicate commission, given that Conor Brady is a former editor of said Irish Times. I enjoyed the book tremendously, though, not least for its historical detail and setting, and for its complex protagonist, Detective Sergeant Joe Swallow, who reminded me very much of Kevin McCarthy’s RIC Sergeant O’Keefe in PEELER (2010).
  There have been some very interesting historical crime novels set in Ireland recently: Kevin McCarthy’s PEELER, as noted; Eoin McNamee’s novels from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s; Benjamin Black’s novels, set in 1950s Dublin; Cora Harrison’s fifteenth century books set in Clare’s Burren country; Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND, which is set during the hunger strikes of 1981.
  It’s a relatively small number of titles, but it makes for an interesting trend, and A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS is a fine addition to the ranks. To wit:
DUBLIN SWELTERS IN the notorious heatwave of June 1887 as Conor Brady’s debut novel opens. The authorities at Dublin Castle are more concerned with the city’s simmering political tensions. With Prince Albert Victor due in Dublin to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee against a backdrop of violent Land League agitation, the castle is concerned that any one of a number of subversive organisations might attempt an assassination.
  So when Det Sgt Joseph Swallow of Dublin Metropolitan Police’s G division is sent to the Chapelizod Gate in Phoenix Park to investigate the discovery of the badly mutilated bodies of a man and a young boy, the authorities are initially relieved that the murders are “ordinary” rather than politically motivated.
  In all the best crime fiction, however, a juicy murder tends to minimise the distance between the criminal fraternity and the higher echelons of society, and such is the case in A June of Ordinary Murders . The death of career criminal Cecelia “Pisspot Ces” Downes makes matters trickier for Swallow, as her grasping lieutenants jockey to fill the power vacuum left in her wake, and the subsequent discovery of a young woman’s body in the Grand Canal complicates things even more.
  Brady weaves a police procedural that does full justice to the complex nature of the social, political and criminal labyrinth that was Dublin in the summer of 1887. He paints a vivid picture of the city as it bakes beneath the unrelenting sun, employing Joe Swallow’s sharp eye and the character’s ambitions as an amateur painter to deftly sketch both its landmarks and its less salubrious corners.
  The novel is set at the dawn of what we would now consider to be the age of forensic science, and we find Swallow dabbling in such radical innovations as ballistics and reconstructive portraiture. There’s also the occasional nugget of historical delight to be gleaned, such as the archaic notion of a “dying declaration”, a legal concept that held a man’s final words to be sound as evidence in court, on the basis that no dying man would knowingly lie.
  For the rest, clickety-click here