“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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: THE DROWNING CHILD by Alex Barclay

Alex Barclay’s series heroine, FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce, generally operates out of Denver, but The Drowning Child (Harper) finds Ren relocated to the Oregon town of Tate, where 12-year-old Caleb Veir has gone missing. What begins as a standard investigation for the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team becomes increasingly sinister, however, as Ren discovers that a number of children have died in mysterious circumstances in Tate, most of them by way of drowning. Complicating matters is Ren’s messy personal life, particularly the overwhelming guilt she feels for causing the deaths of her friends and colleagues in the ‘monumental horror’ of her previous case, Killing Ways (2015). Ren Bryce becomes a more compelling character with each successive novel (this is her sixth outing), hardboiled and professional on the outside but – courtesy of Ren’s unfiltered internal monologue – crippled with self-doubt and loathing on the inside. She’s also irreverent, insolent and endearingly self-deprecating, such as when she compares herself to the iconic Clarice Starling: “No screaming lambs, but lots of fucking voices.” Central to the appeal of The Drowning Child, however, is Barclay’s depiction of small-town America, a sharply observed valley of squinting windows that turns a blind eye to the perverse sickness at its very heart. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times in the crime fiction review column. Other titles reviewed are the new books from Carl Hiaasen, Sophie Hannah, Peter Spiegelman and Thomas Rydahl.

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