“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.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Review: THE GODS OF GUILT by Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly began writing the Mickey Haller novels in a bid to recharge his batteries for his long-running series hero, the LAPD detective Harry Bosch, who has featured in 16 novels since he first appeared in The Black Echo (1992). The Gods of Guilt is only the fifth story to feature defence lawyer Mickey Haller, but the success of the movie of The Lincoln Lawyer – released in 2011, starring Matthew McConaughey and based on the novel of the same name from 2005 – means that Mickey Haller is now arguably a more popular character than Bosch.
  That popularity is reflected in an early flash of deadpan humour, as Haller rushes down the courthouse steps and sits into the back seat of the Lincoln town car from which he conducts his business, only to discover that he’s sitting in another lawyer’s Lincoln.
  In the cutthroat world of LA’s legal system, where lawyers compete fiercely for business, the admittedly flattering imitation is costing Mickey dearly. Mickey, however, has more pressing concerns. An old friend, Gloria Dayton, has been found murdered. Complicating matters is the fact that the alleged killer, Gloria’s pimp, has requested that Mickey defend him in court, and has done so on Gloria’s advice.
  Taking the case against his better judgement, Mickey has good reason to rue his decision when it gradually becomes apparent that the murder is rooted in a previous case. Soon Mickey is battling on a number of fronts, and finds himself and his associates targeted by a Mexican drugs cartel.
  The title of The Gods of Guilt refers to the jurors who deliver their verdict on the men and women Mickey Haller defends in court, but there’s a personal dimension to it too. “The gods of guilt are many,” says Legal Siegel, Mickey’s aging mentor. “You don’t need to add to them.” Mickey Haller is a slick, fast-talking defence lawyer who isn’t above bending the rules to ensure clients walk away from court with a not-guilty verdict, regardless of their innocence, but his professional exterior masks a man haunted by demons.
  That clash of the professional and the personal manifests itself in the fraught relationship with his teenage daughter, Hayley, who holds her father responsible for a tragedy in her own life. Her refusal to speak with him and Mickey’s increasingly desperate attempts to open a line of communication offer a poignant counterpoint to Mickey’s hardboiled persona, and effectively humanises the kind of character that is too often characterised as a shallow, sleazy shyster.
  A Pulitzer Prize finalist when he worked as a crime reporter, Connelly tells his story in the taut, driven, journalistic style that has become his trademark as an author over the course of two decades and 26 novels. The result is a propulsive, intricately plotted and emotionally involving tale, but The Gods of Guilt also marks the emergence of Mickey Haller from the long shadow cast by Harry Bosch to become a complex and fascinating character in his own right. ~ Declan Burke

  This review first appeared in the Irish Times.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: UNRAVELLING OLIVER by Liz Nugent

The latest crime fiction column in the Irish Times was published last weekend, featuring offerings from George Pelecanos, Laura Wilson, DA Mishani and Margie Orford. It also included UNRAVELLING OLIVER, the debut novel from Irish author Liz Nugent. To wit:
Liz Nugent’s Unravelling Oliver (Penguin Ireland, €14.99) opens with Dublin-based writer Oliver Ryan viciously beating his wife Alice. The assault is described in the first person by Oliver himself, but Oliver’s is only one of a number of first-person accounts on offer here, each one a piece of the jigsaw that gradually assembles itself into portrait of a pathetic young boy who grew up to become a monster who writes best-selling children’s books. The reader is given no framing device relating to who might have collated the various accounts, or why, but the narrative gambit pays off handsomely. Oliver Ryan may be a vain, shallow and ultimately violent sociopath, but his story grows more compelling and nuanced the more we learn about him and the factors that influenced the man he would become, some of which were set in train even before he was born. More an investigation into psychology than a conventional crime thriller, Unravelling Oliver is a formidable debut. ~ Declan Burke
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Pat Fitzpatrick

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?
Anything by Ed McBain. I picked up one his books in a second-hand book shop in New York because it was a dollar and I liked the cover. Before that I had no interest in crime novels; after that I had little interest in anything else. So McBain is my first love.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Philip Kerr’s brilliant creation, Bernie Gunther.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I’d have to plead guilty to John Grisham. But he probably knows a lawyer who can get me off.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The first sentence. It tends to get tricky after that.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE. I’m not sure if John Banville meant to it to be read as a crime novel. But that’s how I see it.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE would make for a great movie.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst is the feeling that everything you write could do with a bit of improvement. The best is when someone reads something you wrote and says otherwise.

The pitch for your next book is …?
The pitch is under wraps at the moment because it is a sequel to my current book and I don’t want to give too much away. But here’s a little taster for now:

He didn’t cry out when Fanta McCarthy hammered the long slender nails into his palms. But he knew it was only a matter of time before he told them everything. And then the killing could begin.

Who are you reading right now?
Would you believe EIGHTBALL BOOGIE by a certain Declan Burke? I know that seems like I’m sucking up to my interrogator, but it happens to be true.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’d go looking for a new God, one who isn’t so cruel.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Short, Sharp and Entertaining (I hope.)

KEEP AWAY FROM THOSE FERRARIS is Pat Fitzpatrick’s debut novel.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gather Ye Rosaries While Ye May

Nicola White’s debut novel, IN THE ROSARY GARDEN (Cargo Publishing) won the 2013 £10,000 Dundee International Book Prize, and comes adorned with praise from Val McDermid, AL Kennedy and Denise Mina. To wit:
Ali Hogan is leaving school, all the possibilities of adult life glistening before her, when her discovery of a murdered newborn in the convent garden in Ireland shatters her world and resurrects half-formed memories of her childhood. For detective Vincent Swan, this baby’s resting place in the grounds of a prosperous school, in an Ireland riven by battles of religion and reproduction, makes the case a media sensation even as the church moves to suppress it. Swan is no friend of the Catholic church; Swan doesn’t have many friends. Even his own wife is a mystery to him. Ali flees the media spotlight, seeking refuge at her uncle’s farm in remote Buleen where she starts to put together the fragments of an older tragedy, another child’s death. Meanwhile in Dublin, Swan’s investigation is stalling, forcing him to consider that the scraps of evidence point to Ali Hogan herself ...
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Third Colour: Blue

There was a very nice review by Martin Doyle of Eoin McNamee’s BLUE IS THE NIGHT (Faber) in the Irish Times on Saturday, which opened thusly:
In the traditional murder mystery, death shatters society’s settled calm, then the killer is caught and punished and normality is restored. But what if society is not normal, if in “a Protestant State for a Protestant people” the killer is a Protestant and his victim a Catholic? Will justice sneak a peek from beneath its blindfold and, with a weather eye on the mob, fix the scales to avert a riot and let justice go hang?
  Who will guard the guards, asked Juvenal? Who will judge the judges? Eoin McNamee, damningly, does so here. He has previous. McNamee made his name as an author of psychologically penetrating and stylised literary reimaginings of real-life crimes, a murky world of subterfuge and sabotage, conspiracy and camouflage, from the Shankill Butchers ( Resurrection Man ) to the murderous activities and murder of the undercover British intelligence officer Robert Nairac ( The Ultras ) to the death of Diana, princess of Wales ( 12.23 ).
  Blue Is the Night is the third in a loose trilogy based on notorious murders in the North, which begins with the darkly compelling Blue Tango, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2001. Its subject was the murder in 1952 of Judge Lance Curran’s 19-year-old daughter Patricia, the wrongful conviction of Iain Hay Gordon for the crime and the suspicious behaviour of her family.
  For the rest, clickety-click here