“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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Irish Writers Centre Mentoring

I’m delighted to announce that as of today, yours truly is a Mentor in the Irish Writers Centre mentoring programme. Quoth the blurb elves:
 My speciality is crime fiction. As an award-winning author and editor in the genre, I can provide invaluable insights into every sub-genre of crime and mystery fiction.
 Baffled by your own plot? Unable to give your characters the desired depth? Struggling to master the intricacies of dialogue? Keen to give your prose a final polish? Whether your manuscript requires an intensive edit or one last brush-up before you send it off to an agent or publisher, I can help.
 For more information, or an informal chat, contact Declan Burke at the Irish Writers Centre.

Relevant Information:
I am an award-winning author and editor.
 I regularly tutor creative writing courses at the Irish Writers’ Centre. These courses include modules on structure, plot, character, narrative voice, setting and dialogue.
 As a proof-reader I worked for the legal publishers Thomson Round Hall.
 Since 2007, I have hosted the blog ‘Crime Always Pays’, which is dedicated to Irish crime fiction.
 I write a monthly crime fiction column for the Irish Times.
 I have hosted numerous public events and interview panels, helping to organise and co-ordinate literary festivals, including the inaugural Irish crime writing festival at Glucksman Ireland House, NYU.

Publishing History as Author:
Eightball Boogie (Sitric) (2003)
The Big O (Hag’s Head Press) (2007)
Absolute Zero Cool (Liberties Press) (2011)
Slaughter’s Hound (Liberties Press) (2012)
Crime Always Pays (Severn House) (2014)
The Lost and the Blind (Severn House (2015)

Publishing History as Editor:
Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Liberties Press) (2011)
Books to Die For (co-edited with John Connolly) (Hodder & Stoughton) (2012)
Trouble Is Our Business (New Island Books) (2016)

Nominations and Awards
Absolute Zero Cool won the Goldsboro Award in 2012. Eightball Boogie, Slaughter’s Hound and Absolute Zero Cool were all shortlisted for the crime fiction prize at the Irish Book Awards. The Big O, Slaughter’s Hound and Crime Always Pays were all shortlisted for the Goldsboro Award for Comic Crime Fiction.
Books to Die For won the Anthony and Macavity Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime. It was further nominated for the Edgar Award and HRF Keating Award for Best Critical / Biographical Crime Fiction.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Publication: HE: A NOVEL by John Connolly

John Connolly likes to keep busy, or maybe his restless imagination gives him no choice in the matter. Either way, he follows up A GAME OF GHOSTS from earlier in the year with he: A Novel (Hodder & Stoughton), which looks like it’s worth buying on the strength of its cover alone, and sounds like a very intriguing proposition indeed. Quoth the blurb elves:
John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity and the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists.
  An extraordinary reimagining of the life of one of the greatest screen comedians the world has ever known: a man who knew both adoration and humiliation; who loved, and was loved in turn; who betrayed, and was betrayed; who never sought to cause pain to others, yet left a trail of affairs and broken marriages in his wake . . .
  And whose life was ultimately defined by one relationship of such tenderness and devotion that only death could sever it: his partnership with the man he knew as Babe.
  he is Stan Laurel.
  But he did not really exist. Stan Laurel was a fiction.
  With he, John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity, the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists, and one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history: Laurel & Hardy.
  he: A Novel will be published on August 24th. For more, clickety-click here

Monday, August 21, 2017

One to Watch: THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain

Jo Spain has already built a considerable reputation on the basis of her series of police procedurals featuring Inspector Tom Reynolds, but next year’s THE CONFESSION (Quercus) is a standalone thriller. Quoth the blurb elves:
Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.
  Just an hour later, the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering: was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?
  THE CONFESSION will be published on January 25th. For more on Jo Spain, clickety-click here

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Reviews: Love, Neary, Garnier, Vargas, Bonini & De Cataldo

Peddling cartel smack to the addicts of LA’s South Central, Lola (Point Blank, €14.99) is doing whatever it takes to ‘make a life for your family better than the bullshit God served you.’ But when a drug deal goes wrong, Lola – the power behind the throne of the Crenshaw Six – has 72 hours to make it right, or suffer a horrible death at the cartel’s hands. The debut novel from Melissa Scrivner Love, a TV writer for CSI: Miami and Person of Interest, Lola is on one level a gripping tale of a brutal struggle for survival in Los Angeles’ barrios, a bleak and cynical noir that pulls no punches in its depiction of the poverty underpinning the savagery of Lola’s world. It’s a novel that has much in common with Bill Beverly’s Dodgers, although Love’s characterisation of Lola gives this novel an added heft, not least because the innate chauvinism of Lola’s sub-culture means she needs to be a chameleon-like ‘shadow leader’, a woman who pulls the strings, flatters multiple egos and cajoles rather than threatens: a junkie’s daughter, Lola grew up abused and beaten, a life lesson that taught Lola ‘she didn’t need a father figure; she was the father figure.’ The result is an absorbing tale that blends compassion and a bracing realpolitik into a fascinating account of one woman’s unquenchable will to not only survive but thrive, in the process breaking the cycles of abuse that have destroyed generations of women before her.
  The Orphans (Hutchinson, €15.99) of Annemarie Neary’s second novel are Jess and Sparrow, siblings whose parents disappeared from a Goa beach when they were young children. The adult Jess, now living in London, has built a wall of certainties around herself – job, husband, child, social status – but the nomadic, fragile Sparrow, refusing to believe his mother abandoned him, descends into monomaniacal obsession. Jess and Sparrow conduct separate investigations into the mystery of their parents’ disappearance, but for the most part The Orphans is a story of how Jess struggles to cope with the belated realisation that she is ‘just a woman without a job, in a sham marriage, with a loose cannon brother who might turn out to be a murderer.’ Neary has a terrific eye for detail – ‘the same wet-weather gear is flapping its pessimist’s charter outside Mountain Warehouse’ – but Jess is a rather passive, hand-wringing protagonist concerned with maintaining the status quo, while Sparrow, potentially fascinating as a study of sociopathic tendencies rooted in violent loss, is sketched in strokes too broad to fully persuade.
  French author Pascal Garnier writes short, offbeat crime novels reminiscent of Georges Simenon in whimsical form, and Low Heights (Gallic, €12.99) is no exception. Cantankerous widower Édouard Lavenant requires a live-in nurse after suffering a mild stroke that leaves him with a crippled arm, and Thérèse seems to fit the bill: professional, mild-manner and complaisant, she tolerates his fits of pique and endless complaints. Thérèse, however, may be a little too tolerant of Lavenant’s idiosyncratic behaviour, and perhaps even guilty of enabling Lavenant’s increasingly dangerous disregard for the importance of human life … There’s a strong sense that Garnier is toying with the reader’s expectations in Low Heights, as he cheerfully lobs supernatural elements, doppelgängers and deus ex machinas into the plot (it’s no coincidence, presumably, that Lavenant was ‘born in Lyon, the home of the puppet Guignol’), although the recurring motif of griffon vultures provide a stark reminder of the Darwinian struggle to survive that underpins Lavenant’s actions. Few writers, meanwhile, can turn a sentence so abruptly as Garnier: ‘Jean-Baptiste was smiling because that’s all a human being is left with once the skin and flesh are stripped away.’ Deliciously sly and nuanced, Low Heights is as much an acerbic commentary on the crime novel’s conventions as it is a slow-burning psychological thriller.
  The award-winning French author Fred Vargas is best known for her police procedurals featuring Chief Inspector Adamsberg, but The Accordionist (Harvill Secker, €15.99), set in Paris, is the third novel to feature her ‘three evangelists’, as retired policeman and ‘unofficial private eye’ Louis Kehlweiler sets out to prove the innocence of Clément, a simple-minded man whom Louis believes to have murdered at least two women in a serial-killing spree. As with Pascal Garnier, Vargas delivers a whimsical variation on the crime novel’s conventions, as Louis justifies his improbable approach to investigating the murders by declaring that he is ‘inclined to let murderers have more rope with which to hang themselves,’ and further propounds a theory in which the killer is inspired by Gérard de Nerval’s epic poem, El Desdichado. It’s all rather delightfully bonkers, a playful and subversively unorthodox take on the private eye novel by a master of her craft.
  Already a film, and now a Netflix series, Suburra (Europa Editions, €18.45) is a sprawling tale of corruption on an epic scale, as politicians, judiciary, police, Mafia and the Vatican fight for a slice of the pie that is the Roman suburb of Suburra during the dog days of the Berlusconi administration. Co-written by Carlo Bonini and Giancarlo De Cataldo, a journalist and magistrate, respectively, the novel’s main narrative thread follows Lieutenant Marco Malatesta, former fascist ideologue and wannabe gangster, but now the scourge of Rome’s parasites, and particularly the gang leader known as Samurai. It’s a ramshackle, rollicking tale, strongly rooted in the historical conflict between Fascism and Communism, with the jocular tone employed Bonini and De Cataldo deliberately undermining the appalling extent of the corruption involved in order to make the irreverent observation that there is no point in taking the story seriously – corruption, after all, is as old as Ancient Rome itself. ~ Declan Burke

  This column first appeared in the Irish Times.

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2017/18

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles published / to be published in 2017, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis. To wit:

POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY by Adrian McKinty (January 5)

DEAD GIRLS DANCING by Graham Masterton (February 9)
THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER by Andrew Hughes (February 23)

LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey (March 9)
THE MISSING ONES by Patricia Gibney (March 16)
HEADBANGER / SAD BASTARD by Hugo Hamilton (March 23)

A GAME OF GHOSTS by John Connolly (April 6)
IN DEEP WATER by Sam Blake (April 11)
THE BLOOD MIRACLES by Lisa McInerney (April 20)
THE CARDINAL’S COURT by Cora Harrison (April 24)

THE THERAPY HOUSE by Julie Parsons (May 2)
THE CITY OF LIES by Michael Russell (May 4)
BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway (May 18)
THE LIAR by Steve Cavanagh (May 18)

SILVER’S CITY by Maurice Leitch (June 1)
PRAGUE NIGHTS by Benjamin Black (June 6)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL by Andrea Mara (June 6)
ONE BAD TURN by Sinead Crowley (June 7)
HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck (June 13)
ENDGAME by Casey Hill (June 14)
I KNOW MY NAME by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (June 15)
THE SWINGING DETECTIVE by Henry McDonald (June 22)

THE STOLEN GIRLS by Patricia Gibney (July 6)
AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy (July 13)
RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE by Clár Ní Chonghaile (July 15)
LITTLE BIRD by Sharon Dempsey (July 26)
THE ORPHANS by Annemarie Neary (July 27)

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Karen Perry (August 26)
RAVENHILL by John Steele (August 31)

THE RELUCTANT CONTACT by Stephen Burke (Sept 7)
SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain (September 21)
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN by Cat Hogan (September TBA)

THE WELL OF ICE by Andrea Carter (October 5)

THE GHOSTS OF GALWAY by Ken Bruen (November 2)
BLOOD TIDE by Claire McGowan (November 9)

UNDERTOW by Anthony J. Quinn (December 14)

2018

THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain (January 25)

SKIN DEEP by Liz Nugent (March 29)

THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS by John Connolly (April 5)
TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE by Olivia Keirnan (April 5)

THIRTEEN by Steve Cavanagh (May 3)

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Feature: SILVER’S CITY by Maurice Leitch

James Doyle of Turnpike Books had a terrific article in the Irish Times last week, explaining why he has republished Maurice Leitch’s SILVER’S CITY, aka ‘the novel that pioneered Northern noir.’ To wit:
Once it seemed that Northern Ireland only produced poets, now it seems to have as many crime novelists as Scandinavia. Brian McGilloway has explained the emergence of these writers: “In the absence of a Truth Commission in Northern Ireland, fiction is the closest we will come to an understanding of the past.”
  Silver’s City began that process. Maurice Leitch created a recognisable Belfast where the motives of his characters are ambiguous and arbitrary. He brought an authenticity to the conflict in Northern Ireland that undermined the lazy clichés that had been applied until then. Leitch’s Belfast is seedy and exhausted, the world of a Graham Greene novel rather than anything that we find in Jack Higgins. The paramilitaries of Silver’s City meet around kitchen tables, they reflect the domesticity and “neighbourly murder” (in Seamus Heaney’s phrase) of Northern Ireland’s violence, the casualness of a war where your enemy lives a few streets away and the only planning needed to kill someone was to knock on their door.
  For the rest of the piece, clickety-click here

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Event: The Lady Killers at the Open House Festival

No Alibis’ David Torrans interviews Alex Barclay and Sam Blake at Bangor’s Open House Festival on August 16th, with the blurb elves quoting thusly:
Take two of Ireland’s leading women crime writers, add in the don of crime bookshops, and you have all the evidence you need for a bestseller of a night.
  Alex Barclay from Cork is the award-winning, international bestselling author of eight thrillers, including her latest, THE DROWNING CHILD, and Dublin based Sam Blake’s debut, LITTLE BONES, was an Irish Times number one bestseller last year. Both books were shortlisted for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.
  David Torrans, the owner of No Alibis bookstore in Belfast, internationally recognised as one of the best independent bookshops this side of anywhere, will be interrogating Alex and Sam to find out what makes a deadly read, how they created their crime fighting heroines, and if the female is always deadlier than the male.
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck

An award-winning author of crime thrillers set in Northern Ireland, Stuart Neville publishes his eighth novel, Here and Gone (Harvill Secker), under the open pseudonym of Haylen Beck. The story begins with Audra Kinney on the run from her abusive husband, Patrick; when Audra is pulled over for a routine traffic stop near the small town of Silver Water in Arizona, she is arrested on a trumped-up charge of marijuana possession and separated from her children, Sean and Louise. Held overnight until charges can be brought, the distressed Audra asks the arresting officer, Sheriff Whiteside, where her children are:
Whiteside held her gaze.
‘What children?’ he asked.
  It’s a variation on every parent’s worst nightmare, not least because the reader subsequently learns of an internet forum on the ‘dark web’, wherein a number of men are eagerly anticipating the arrival of ‘the goods’, ‘a pair in good condition’ who will provide the ‘entertainment’ for an evening’s depravity.
  With the reader aware that the clock is ticking, the scene is set for an adrenaline-fuelled tale of gritty heroism, as Audra – helpless in Sheriff Whiteside’s custody, suspected of murdering her children by the FBI, and already convicted by the court of public opinion – struggles to overcome impossible odds in a desperate bid to save her children.
  It’s a high-concept tale to rival Neville’s debut, The Twelve (2009), in which an ex-paramilitary, haunted by the ghosts of those he was ordered to murder, sets out to avenge their deaths. While Here and Gone is equally absorbing, the new nom-de-plume and the Arizona setting aren’t the only radical departures for Neville. In a sense, he has had to reconfigure his entire mindset vis-à-vis the crime genre, in the process illuminating the essential difference between the hardboiled crime novels originating in the US and the mystery novels of those – the recent Scandi noir phenomenon included – from this side of the pond. Where Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Lord Peter Wimsey and most of the other amateur sleuths of the UK’s Golden Age of mystery writing were happy to collaborate when necessary with the local police force, Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe frequently found themselves at odds with the establishment and at the rough end of a brutal justice meted out by corrupt police forces shoring up a rotten system, a state of affairs that reached its apotheosis in Jim Thompson’s first-person account of the deranged deputy sheriff Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me.
  Hailing from a former colony, Irish crime writers get to have their cake and eat it too, presenting the police as agents of oppression and terror when it suits, but also culturally attuned to tapping into the classic British perception of PC Plod as the flat-footed but utterly dependable avatar for law, order and justice.
  It was in utilising the latter perception that the Belfast-based Stuart Neville established a considerable international reputation on the basis of a series of loosely linked police procedurals set in Northern Ireland, in which the protagonist, most recently DCI Serena Flanagan and previously DI Jack Lennon, were diligent professionals who – their personal demons notwithstanding – did their best to protect and serve the civilian population. In Haylen Beck’s Arizona-set Here and Gone, however, the police are not only mistrusted as the corrupt representatives of system of law and order heavily weighted towards the rich and privileged, but are to be feared for proactively seeking out the vulnerable in order to facilitate a monstrous appetite.
  The result is a novel that combines the propulsive narrative drive of Lee Child with Michael Connelly’s deceptively understated muscular prose, a thriller that also blends into its potent mix a strong flavour of both the domestic and rural noir sub-genres, the former as a consequence of Audra Kinney’s intensely emotional quest to be reunited with her children, the latter courtesy of Neville / Beck’s beautifully detailed descriptions of the remote and parched Arizona landscape. All told, Here and Gone is, even allowing for the inevitable hyperbole, not only a genuinely chilling and thrilling read, but a fascinating snapshot of Irish crime fiction’s ability to straddle the classic strands of US and British crime fiction. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Event: Writing Crime Fiction with Gerard Brennan

Gerard Brennan (right) is not only one of the good guys, but the good guy from whom – pace Wodehouse – aspiring good guys might take a correspondence course. ‘Writing Crime Fiction with Gerard Brennan’ is neither a correspondence course nor a set of guidelines in being a good guy, or doll, but it should prove both instructive and illuminating vis-à-vis the fiendishly difficult business of writing crime fiction. To wit:
‘Writing Crime Fiction with Gerard Brennan’
Starts: Thur 28 Sept 2017
Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Duration: 8 Weeks
Venue: Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast
Cost: €88/£80

Maverick police detectives, hardnosed gumshoes or crime-solving cats. Anything goes. Do you have a criminal mind, but too much sense to break the law? You might be in luck. CSNI (Crime Scene Northern Ireland) is an introduction to writing crime fiction. An eight-week course that explores the wide range of subgenres within crime fiction where you can learn about the so-called rules of writing a crime novel, and break them.

Gerard Brennan recently earned his PhD in Creative Writing from Queen’s University Belfast. His publishing credits include UNDERCOVER (2014), WEE ROCKETS (2012) and THE POINT (2011); winner of the Spinetingler Award for Best Novella in 2012.
  For all the details, including how to book a place, clickety-click here

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Irk of the Week # 326: The Decoupling of Couple Of

I’m currently reading a novel called [REDACTED] by [REDACTED], which is a very fine novel indeed, despite the author having – as seems to be the fashion – a bizarre abhorrence of using the words ‘couple’ and ‘of’ in conjunction. One such example:
They’re just a couple stupid little girls.
  Now, the first time you stumble (and stumble you do) across this, you might well assume it’s a typo, and let it slide. But when it reoccurs four or five times in the course of a single novel (otherwise typo-free), you may assume it’s a stylistic tic, and start to wonder why said tic has become so prevalent.
  Because the thing is, it simply doesn’t scan, and not least because anyone saying that line is making a conscious decision to omit the word ‘of’.
  Try saying ‘They’re just a couple stupid little girls’ aloud; then try it using ‘couple of’, ‘couple a’ or even ‘coupla’.
  If you can’t hear the difference, I apologise – it’s very likely the sound my grinding teeth drowning out the nuance.
  Of course, the line could also be written thusly:
They’re just a couple stupid little girls.
  Because the reader already knows there are two girls under discussion, we don’t really need the ‘a couple’ at all; and anyway, you’ve got that lovely plural built in there at the end, just to be doubly sure.
  Next week’s Irk: the epidemic of authors forcing characters to ‘fire up’ their computers, laptops, et al, instead of simply allowing said characters to switch on, or turn on, their computers, laptops, et al, thus costing the benighted denizens of Characterland a small fortune as they rush to invest in flame-retardant technology.

Publication: LITTLE BIRD by Sharon Dempsey

Published last week, Sharon Dempsey’s debut thriller, LITTLE BIRD (Bloodhound), is a serial killer novel set in Northern Ireland. Quoth the blurb elves:
Forensic psychologist, Declan Wells, is dealing with the aftermath of a car bomb during the Troubles in Belfast, which has left him in a wheelchair. But that is only the start of his problems.
  Welsh detective Anna Cole is running away from a dead-end relationship and the guilt of her mother’s death. She hopes secondment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland will provide a distraction.
  There is a killer on the streets targeting young women and leaving behind macabre mementoes to taunt the police.
  Can Declan and Anna work together to catch the deranged killer before he strikes again?
  And is it ever possible to leave the past behind you?
  Dominique Jeannerod interviews Sharon over at the International Crime Fiction Research Group. For more, clickety-click here

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey

Jane Casey’s seventh novel to feature London-based police detective Maeve Kerrigan, Let the Dead Speak (HarperCollins) finds Maeve newly promoted to detective sergeant, although her latest case proves a baptism of fire in the new role. When Chloe Emery, an unusually naïve 18-year-old, returns home from a weekend away to discover a bloodbath in the family home, all the signs point to the frenzied murder of Chloe’s mother, Kate – all, that is, but the fact that there is no corpse.
  It’s a variation of sorts on the classic locked-room mystery, a police procedural into which Casey – previously a winner of the Irish Crime Novel of the Year – blends religious fanaticism and patriarchal sexism. As Maeve and her colleagues interview Kate Emery’s neighbours, among them Gareth Selhurst, a preacher in the Church of the Modern Apostles, she uncovers horrors that lurk behind the most respectable of middle-class suburban facades. ‘Yes, I do,’ states Maeve without hesitation when Selhurst asks if she believes in evil, as Casey unapologetically etches the classic battle-lines of crime fiction into her plot.
  That unequivocal reply, as she faces down the ranting, patriarchal Selhurst, confirms what the reader will likely know: promotion is good for a woman. Maeve Kerrigan is here noticeably more confident than the reticent character plagued by self-doubt we encountered in earlier novels, a woman who was, in public, as hardboiled and pithy as any of her colleagues (chief among them her irascible partner Josh Derwent), but who revealed her insecurities by way of asides to the reader. Her new position may make the private Maeve feel a little giddy (‘One step up the ladder and the view was giving me vertigo.’), but her private and public selves are much more in synch, perhaps because Maeve, finally, has allowed herself to believe that she has earned, and deserves, her new responsibilities.
  Not that Maeve is likely to get carried away with Pollyanna-ish ideals about good inevitably triumphing over evil. Maeve’s unhesitating acknowledgement that evil exists isn’t rooted in any theological argument, but in the bitter experience of policing London’s streets, where even in the plusher suburbs a woman such as Kate Emery isn’t safe from the savage (male) predators who hide in plain sight among her apparently law-abiding neighbours. When Derwent tells her that she wants to make everything right, that she wants to believe in happy endings, Maeve retorts that there’s no such thing, that ‘There’s just life.’
  It’s an answer that might be construed as cynical or pragmatic, particularly in the context of a genre that generally delivers the ideal of justice as a substitute for a happy ever after. It’s a theme Casey develops as Maeve Kerrigan’s investigation develops, and the focus moves from the discovery of Kate Emery’s killer to the protecting of her orphaned daughter, Chloe. The 18-year-old Chloe – technically an adult, but mentally and emotionally much younger – has become prey for the neighbourhood’s predators, because, as Maeve tells Derwent, “no one ever taught Chloe the rules […] That your body is public property, if you’re young and female. That men will take advantage of you, if they can.” The Maeve Kerrigan novels have always had a feminist sub-text; here, in tandem with Maeve’s promotion, that sub-text is brought to the fore, as Maeve uses her new powers to go to war on Chloe’s behalf.
  The result is a complex tale that delivers a superior police procedural. Maeve Kerrigan remains one of the most likeably self-deprecating detectives on contemporary crime fiction’s beat, and Let the Dead Speak, which fairly crackles with the sublimated sexual tension between Maeve and Josh, is the most polished of the Maeve Kerrigan series to date. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Publication: ENDGAME by Casey Hill

ENDGAME is the eighth novel from Casey Hill – aka Melissa Hill and her husband Kevin – to feature Reilly Steel, the Dublin-based forensic investigator. Quoth the blurb elves:
When the body of a teenage boy is found beaten to death in his own bedroom, and a girl attending a party held at his house reports an attempted sexual attack the night before, the Dublin police immediately suspect both incidents are related. But when a sweep of the crime scene throws up some truly puzzling forensic evidence, CSI Reilly Steel wonders if those initial suspicions are correct. As the investigation deepens, and her GFU team begins to delve into the online lives of both teenage victims, even more questions are raised. Can Reilly help the investigators discover the truth about what actually happened on the night of the party?
  For a review of Casey Hill’s TORN, clickety-click here

Friday, July 28, 2017

Publication: THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER by Andrew Hughes

I’m not sure how Andrew Hughes’ second novel, THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER (Doubleday), slipped under my radar – I thought his debut, THE CONVICTIONS OF JOHN DELAHUNT, was superb. Anyhoo, THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER is a historical mystery, and was published way back in February, with the blurb elves quoting thusly:
1816 was the year without a summer. A rare climatic event has brought frost to July, and a lingering fog casts a pall over a Dublin stirred by zealotry and civil unrest, torn between evangelical and rationalist dogma.
  Amid the disquiet, a young nursemaid in a pious household conceals a pregnancy and then murders her newborn. Rumours swirl about the identity of the child’s father, but before an inquest can be held, the maid is found dead. When Abigail Lawless, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Dublin’s coroner, by chance discovers a message from the maid’s seducer, she is drawn into a world of hidden meanings and deceit.
  An only child, Abigail has been raised amid the books and instruments of her father’s grim profession. Pushing against the restrictions society places on a girl her age, she pursues an increasingly dangerous investigation. As she leads us through dissection rooms and dead houses, Gothic churches and elegant ballrooms, a sinister figure watches from the shadows - an individual she believes has already killed twice, and is waiting to kill again ...
  Determined, resourceful and intuitive, Abigail Lawless emerges as a memorable young sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.
  For a review of THE CONVICTIONS OF JOHN DELAHUNT, clickety-click here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Launch: I KNOW MY NAME by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Carolyn Jess-Cooke launches her latest novel, I KNOW MY NAME (HarperCollins), at No Alibis next Thursday, August 3rd, at 6.30pm. Quoth the blurb elves:
Kommno Island, Greece: I don’t know where I am, who I am. Help me.
  A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.
  Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Elose Shelley is officially missing.
  Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie
  Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Elose missing? Why did she forget?
  For more on Carolyn Jess-Cooke, clickety-click here

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: THE LATE SHOW by Michael Connelly

The Late Show (Orion), Michael Connelly’s first novel to feature a new series character since Mickey Haller appeared in The Lincoln Lawyer (2005), opens with Renée Ballard and her partner John Jenkins taking a call to investigate credit card fraud. A mundane crime on the face of it, but par for the course: working ‘the late show’, i.e., the night shift, out of LA’s Hollywood Division, Ballard and Jenkins generally turn up to crime scenes, write their reports, then hand over the cases to the day shift the following morning.
  Connelly, however, is the creator of Harry Bosch, one of the most iconic protagonists in American crime fiction, and the deceptively routine opening quickly segues into a story that finds Ballard investigating the abduction and brutal assault of the transgender Ramona Ramone and a multiple shooting at a nightclub, during the course of which a waitress, Cynthia Haddel, is murdered simply because she is a potential witness.
  The names may have changed, then, but Connelly’s song remains essentially the same. The Late Show reads like a Bosch novel, as Connelly braids multiple investigations into his plot, driving the story onward with precise, measured prose that eschews sensationalism. Ballard, like the author, is an ex-journalist, whose ‘training and experience had given her skills that helped with [writing reports]. … She wrote short, clear sentences that gave momentum to the narrative of the investigation.’ Where Harry Bosch is a loner apart from his relationship with his daughter, Maddie, Ballard is a loner apart from her relationship with her grandmother, Tutu. Sleeping on the beach, showering and changing at the station, Ballard lives a minimalist existence that allows her dedicate herself to her work, believing that nothing should interfere with ‘the sacred bond that exists between homicide victims and the detectives who speak for them.’ Like Bosch, Ballard adheres to a Manichean philosophy: ‘big evil’ exists in the world, and her job is to prevent the spread of its ‘callous malignancy’.
  That said, Ballard is significantly more than a Bosch replacement or clone, at least for the time being (Connelly will publish the 20th Harry Bosch novel, Two Kinds of Truth, later this year). An absorbing character on her own terms, Ballard is morally disciplined but irreverently free-spirited as she goes down those mean streets (the reference to Chandler’s The Long Goodbye is no coincidence), and while she may plough a lone furrow broadly familiar to fans of Philip Marlowe, Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller, her gender allows Connelly to explore avenues closed off to his male protagonists. Her experience of institutionalised misogyny in the ranks of the LAPD may have hardened the previously idealistic Ballard, but it has not shut down her instinctive emotional responses; if anything, it has heightened her compassion for female victims of crime. Meanwhile, her sense of her own vulnerability and her attenuated awareness of possible threat, both of which feed into the story to a significant degree, are not qualities Bosch or Haller – or very few male protagonists in crime fiction, for that matter – would be likely to admit to out loud.
  Early in the novel, Ballard notes that the murdered waitress, Cynthia Haddel, was an aspiring actress who had played the part of ‘Girl at the Bar’ in an episode of the TV show Bosch, ‘which Ballard knew was based on the exploits of a now-retired LAPD detective.’ Harry Bosch has been hanging on by his fingernails for some years now, semi-retired and raging at the dying of the light, but it can only be a matter of time before Michael Connelly puts the old warhorse out to grass.
  That day may well provoke the kind of protests not witnessed since Arthur Conan Doyle tipped Sherlock Holmes off the Reichenbach Falls, but Connelly’s fans needn’t fret. In Renée Ballard, Connelly has created yet another potentially iconic tarnished knight of those perennially mean streets, a woman who understands, as her psychiatrist warns, that ‘if you go into darkness, the darkness goes into you,’ but who will defiantly stare down the abyss nonetheless. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Monday, July 24, 2017

One to Watch: THE WELL OF ICE by Andrea Carter

THE WELL OF ICE is the third in Andrea Carter’s Donegal-set series featuring her amateur sleuth solicitor Ben O’Keeffe, following on from DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH and TREACHEROUS STRAND. Quoth the blurb elves:
December in Glendara, Inishowen, and solicitor Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is working flat-out before the holidays; the one bright spot on her horizon is spending her first Christmas with Sergeant Tom Molloy.
  But on a trip to Dublin to visit her parents, she runs into Luke Kirby - the man who killed her sister - freshly released from jail. He appears remorseful, conciliatory even, but as she walks away, he whispers something that chills her to the bone.
  Back in Glendara, there is chaos. The Oak pub has burned down and Carole Kearney, the Oak’s barmaid, has gone missing. And then on Christmas morning, while walking up Sliabh Sneacht, Ben and Molloy make a gruesome discovery: a body lying face-down in the snow.
  Who is behind this vicious attack on Glendara and its residents? Ben tries to find answers, but is she the one in danger?
  THE WELL OF ICE will be published on October 5th. For more on Andrea Carter, clickety-click here

Sunday, July 23, 2017

News: Tana French Wins the Strand Critics Award

Yours truly was away on hols last week, so it’s a belated congratulations to Tana French, who earlier this month won the Strand Critics Award for Best Novel for THE TRESPASSER. Quoth the Strand elves:
After being nominated a record five times for Best Novel, Tana French took home the top prize for The Trespasser, which received rave reviews for blurring the lines between genre and literary fiction. In a statement read by her publicist Ben Petrone, French said: “I am honored and I really wish I were there tonight, and I am relying on Ben Petrone and Andrew [Gulli] to down a couple of my favorite cocktails for me.”
  THE TRESPASSER, of course, also took home the crime gong at last year’s Irish Books of the Year bunfight. For all the other winners at the Strand Critics Awards, clickety-click here

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Publication: BEYOND ABSOLUTION by Cora Harrison

The hardest-working woman in Irish crime fiction, Cora Harrison, published BEYOND ABSOLUTION (Severn House) earlier this year, the latest in her historical mystery series featuring the Reverend Mother Aquinas and by my reckoning her fifth novel in less than two years. Quoth the blurb elves:
Ireland, 1925. Pierced through to the brain, the dead body of the priest was found wedged into the small, dark confessional cubicle. Loved by all, Father Dominic had lent a listening ear to sinners of all kinds: gunmen and policemen; prostitutes and nuns; prosperous businessmen and petty swindlers; tradesmen and thieves. But who knelt behind the metal grid and inserted a deadly weapon into that listening ear?
  The Reverend Mother Aquinas can do nothing for Father Dominic, but for the sake of his brother, her old friend Father Lawrence, she is determined to find out who killed him, and why.
  For more on Cora Harrison, clickety-click here

Monday, July 17, 2017

Feature: Benjamin Black on Crime Fiction and the City

Benjamin Black’s latest novel, PRAGUE NIGHTS (Viking), was published last month, a historical mystery set in – spoiler alert! – Prague, and sufficient reason for said Benny Blanco to wax lyrical in the Daily Telegraph on the topic of the city being God’s gift to the crime writer, said waxy lyricism encompassing the work of Raymond Chandler, Margery Allingham, Martin Cruz Smith, Michael Dibdin and Dostoevsky. To wit:
“The city is God’s gift to the crime writer. Yes, there is just as much scope, if not more, for blood-letting, skulduggery and devilment in the countryside as there is in town. However, the urban wilderness lends itself with particular aptness to noir fiction, whether it be Maigret’s Paris, Philip Marlowe’s Bay City, a lightly fictionalised version of Santa Monica, or Dostoevsky’s St Petersburg.
  “Of course, it used to be more congenial in the old days, before the coming of Clean Air Acts and the general frowning upon and legislation against the cigarette, that essential prop of the spinner of tales of stylish mayhem. The classic crime novel reeks of tobacco smoke, is touched with the wistful fragrance of sooty rain on shiny pavements and coughs its lungs out in peasouper fogs.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, July 14, 2017

Re-Issue: BOGMAIL by Patrick McGinley

I love the cover of Apollo’s re-issue of Patrick McGinley’s BOGMAIL, which is rather funky in and of itself, but also carries a quote from yours truly to the effect that BOGMAIL is ‘dark, twisted and blackly hilarious’ – which it is, although I would further add that BOGMAIL is a quietly absurdist masterpiece and a worthy heir to Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN. Anyway, herewith be the blurb elves:
A truly funny and stunningly well-told tale of murder in a small Irish village in Donegal, Bogmail is a classic of modern Irish literature.
  Set in a remote village, the action begins with a murder when Roarty, a publican and former priest, kills his bartender then buries his body in a bog. It's not long before Roarty starts getting blackmail letters, and matters quickly spiral out of his control.
  Twisty, turny and enlivened with colour that echoes the landscape and surroundings, Bogmail was Patrick McGinley's first novel, yet it remains just as fresh today as the day it first appeared.
  For a review of (New Island’s re-issue of) BOGMAIL, clickety-click here

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Event: DEAD IN DUN LAOGHAIRE

There’s a crime fiction ‘do’ taking place in Dun Laoghaire on July 22nd, when the Pavilion Theatre hosts a number of authors from the Penguin Random House Ireland stable to talk all things murderous and criminal. The event will take place in partnership with the Irish Times, and Irish writers taking part include Benjamin Black (John Banville) and Haylen Beck (Stuart Neville), Karen Perry and Liz Nugent, while Kathy Reichs and Paula Hawkins provide an international flavour. For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Publication: AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy

S.A. Dunphy publishes his debut thriller AFTER SHE VANISHED (Hachette Ireland) today, a first foray into fiction by the successful non-fiction author Shane Dunphy. Quoth the blurb elves:
Eighteen years ago David Dunnigan took his beloved six-year-old niece Beth on a shopping trip. They stopped on a crowded street to hear some buskers. She took her hand from his for a split second. And when he turned around, she was gone.
  Now Dunnigan, his life shattered, is a criminology lecturer and also works as a consultant for the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Harcourt Street, specialising in cases involving missing persons. That’s how he crosses paths with Harry, a young boy living on the streets whose parents have disappeared.
  As Dunnigan finds himself drawn into the world of The Warrens, a transient place where the dark underbelly of society lives, will he be able to help Harry? And what of Beth will he find there?
  For an interview with S.A. Dunphy on TV3, clickety-click here

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Podcast: Two Writers and a Microphone

The ‘Two Writers and a Microphone’ podcast goes from strength to strength, with Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste luring Norn Iron’s Gerard Brennan into their studio lair this week to talk about – among other things – THE MALTESE FALCON and THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE. Hey, why talk about other books when you can talk about the best, right?
  This week’s offering is the 38th episode in the ‘Two Writers and a Microphone’ saga. For a list of, and links to, all 38 episodes, clickety-click here

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Event: Irish Crime Writing at Boyle Arts Festival

I’m hugely looking forward to taking part in the Irish crime writing panel at the Boyle Arts Festival on July 22nd – they’re a fabulous bunch in Boyle, and looked after yours truly very well the last time I was there. Andrea Carter will be moderating a panel composed of Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and your humble correspondent, with the event taking place at 5pm on July 22nd at the Family Resource Centre, Boyle. If you’re in the vicinity – and where else would you want to be on a summer’s evening? – drop on by and say hello. For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, July 7, 2017

Short Story: ‘Tell Me Something About Your Wife’ by Karen Perry

Karen Perry – aka Karen Gillece and Paul Perry – had a short story published in the Irish Times this week, titled – ominously – ‘Tell Me Something About Your Wife’. You’ll find it here
  Meanwhile, the fourth Karen Perry psychological thriller, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? (Penguin), will be published next month. Quoth the blurb elves:
It’s been twenty years since Lindsey has seen her best friend Rachel
  Twenty years since she has set foot in Thornbury Hall – the now crumbling home of the Bagenal family – where they spent so much time as teenagers. Since Patrick Bagenal’s 18th birthday party, the night everything changed.
  It’s time for a reunion
  Patrick has decided on one last hurrah before closing the doors of his family home for good. All of the old crowd, back together for a weekend.
  For the secrets to come out
  It’s not long before secrets begin to float to the surface. Everything that Lindsey shared with her best friend at sixteen and everything that she didn’t.
  But some secrets should never be told. They need to be taken to the grave. While others require revenge at any cost.
  CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? will be published on August 26th. Karen Perry will be taking part in the ‘Dead in Dun Laoghaire’ crime fiction event on July 22nd. For a review of ONLY WE KNOW, clickety click here

Thursday, July 6, 2017

One to Watch: RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE by Clár Ní Chonghaile

Clár Ní Chonghaile follows up her debut novel, FRACTURED, with the Dublin-set RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE (Legend Press). Quoth the blurb elves:
Theo, a young Rwandan boy fleeing his country’s genocide, arrives in Dublin, penniless, alone and afraid. Still haunted by a traumatic memory in which his father committed a murderous act of violence, he struggles to find his place in the foreign city.
  Plagued by his past, Theo is gradually drawn deeper into the world of Dublin’s feared criminal gangs. But a chance encounter in a restaurant with Deirdre offers him a lifeline.
  Theo and Deirdre’s tender friendship is however soon threatened by tragedy. Can they confront their addictions to carve a future out of the catastrophe that engulfs both their lives?
  RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE will be published on July 15th. For a review of FRACTURED, clickety-click here

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Launch: Haylen Beck at No Alibis

Stuart Neville launches the debut title for his pseudonym Haylen Beck, HERE AND GONE (Harvill Secker), at Belfast’s No Alibis at 7pm on Thursday, July 6th. Quoth the blurb elves:
Audra has finally left her abusive husband. She’s taken the family car and her young children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. This is their chance for a fresh start.
  Audra keeps to the country roads to avoid attention. She’s looking for a safe place to stay for the night when she spots something in her rear-view mirror. A police car is following her and the lights are flickering. Blue and red.
  As Audra pulls over she is intensely aware of how isolated they are. Her perfect escape is about to turn into a nightmare beyond her imagining …
  I read HERE AND GONE last month, and it’s the proverbial white-knuckle ride, a stripped-back thriller that delivers a hefty emotional wallop. But don’t take my word for it: Harlan Coben reckons that, “Packed with smart twists and unforgettable characters, HERE AND GONE is one of the best debuts of the year.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

One to Watch: RAVENHILL by John Steele

Described by Colin Bateman as ‘A cracking, fast-paced thriller,’ John Steele publishes the first in a Belfast-set series, RAVENHILL (Silvertail Books) next month. Quoth the blurb elves:
Belfast, 1993: Jackie Shaw is a young tearaway running with paramilitaries in Belfast. He treads a fine line keeping psychotic hard-man Rab Simpson in check while sleeping with gang leader Billy Tyrie’s beautiful wife on the side.
  When a bomb claims nine lives, he is given the role of getaway driver in a planned reprisal killing, a key role in a major operation. But Jackie may not be who he seems ...
  Twenty years later, Jackie returns to the city for his father’s funeral after disappearing in mysterious circumstances. He wants to mourn then leave, but when figures from his past emerge, he is left with no choice but to revisit his violent former life.
  RAVENHILL will be published on August 31st.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Top 10 Northern Irish Crime Novels: Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway (right) recently wrote a piece for the Strand Magazine on the Top 10 Northern Irish crime novels, and a very fine list it is too, despite the surprising absence of Eoin McNamee. In his Intro, Brian provides a context for why Northern Irish crime fiction has flourished over the last decade or so:
“I think it is also why Northern Irish crime fiction only really found its voice after the violence here subsided: there’s no need to vicariously experience fear when you are actually undergoing it. When I wrote Borderlands in 2003, I deliberately set out to write a novel unrelated to the Troubles. But, in the writing of it, I found the events of the previous thirty years remained a constant shadow, bleeding around the edges of every narrative. The same could be argued for many of the other crime writers here. In the absence of a Truth Commission in Northern Ireland, fiction is the closest we will come to an understanding of the past even as we chart our way forward. And crime fiction, more than any other genre, works in that dual movement—a crime novel starts at the end of the victim’s story and, while the narrative has continual forward momentum, the detectives are generally working backwards from the moment of the crime to trace the initial acts and motives that lead to it.”
  For Brian McGilloway’s Top 10 Northern Irish Crime Novels, clickety-click here

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Event: ‘Killing for a Living: Irish Crime Writers’

Sam Blake (right) will host an Irish crime writing event at the London Irish Centre later this month, interviewing Julie Parsons and Sheila Bugler on ‘the Art of Murder.’ To wit:
KILLING FOR A LIVING: IRISH CRIME WRITERS
DATE: JULY 23, 2017
DOORS: 15:30
VENUE: LONDON IRISH CENTRE
PRICE: £8
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Friday, June 30, 2017

‘Not Everyone Murders People in Their Sleep’: Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent (right) had a piece in the Irish Times this week, titled ‘Not Everyone Murders People in Their Sleep’, during which she touched on ‘the rise of Irish female crime writers’:
“I am often asked about the rise of Irish female crime writers in recent years. Maybe Tana French and Alex Barclay opened the doors for the rest of us, and as writer Jane Casey says, women are more attuned to threat. We are the ones looking over our shoulders, making sure that we have our keys in our hands, texting each other to make sure we got home safely.”
  I’d add Arlene Hunt and the doyenne of Irish crime fiction, Julie Parsons, to that list of trailblazers, and further suggest that Maeve Binchy probably had a lot to do with normalising the idea that being an Irish writer didn’t necessarily involve wanting to emulate the Joyces and Becketts of the canon.
  As to why women writers have come to the fore in recent years – we can add Sinead Crowley, Louise Phillips, Annemarie Neary and Andrea Carter to the names above – it may have something to do with the way crime fiction has moved on from the classical fantasy of the lone hero(ine) – Holmes, Poirot, Marple, Marlowe – taking on and defeating bad guys, and instead adopting a more realistic approach to the age-old human fear of the social and personal threat that crime represents.
  Whatever the reason, Liz Nugent is certainly in the vanguard, domestically and internationally, and her next novel, SKIN DEEP (Penguin Ireland), is already hotly anticipated. Quoth the blurb elves:
'Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.'
 Delphine Hamilton is a fake. She has been living on the Côte d'Azur for ten years, posing as an English heiress. However, her alimony is running out, her looks are fading, and her wealthy lovers are fewer and further between.
 Down to her last euros, and desperate to get out of her apartment, Delphine decides to spend the day at the Negresco where she is caught stealing another guest's meal. He takes pity on her and invites her to a party.
 The guests are young and beautiful and Delphine feels her age, and is achingly conscious of her worn out dress. But after a few lines of cocaine and multiple cocktails, she is oblivious to everything.
 Hours later, as dawn is breaking, she wakes up on the floor of a deserted hotel penthouse. She makes her way home through the back streets.
Even before she opens the door she can hear the flies buzzing and she realizes that the corpse in her bedroom has already begun to decompose ...
  SKIN DEEP will be published in March 2018.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: THE CITY OF LIES by Michael Russell

Opening in 1940, The City of Lies (Constable) is Michael Russell’s fourth novel to feature Dublin-based Special Branch detective Stefan Gillespie, whose mixed Irish-German heritage has proved useful to his superiors on previous occasions. Investigating a suspected murder-arson in West Wicklow, Stefan stumbles across what appears to be a German radio. Soon he is on his way to Berlin as a courier carrying crucial information to the Irish ambassador, there to encounter Francis Stuart and Frank Ryan, among others. Meanwhile, in 1939, Hauptmann Johannes Rilling records the atrocities being committed by German troops as they blitzkrieg through Poland, a series of mass murders of civilians on a scale previously unimaginable to a Wehrmacht officer. Blending historical events and personages into his fiction, Russell creates a vividly detailed tale which investigates the coming horrors of the Holocaust (“Blood spoke to blood; when it did there were no questions.”) and explores a Berlin drunk on power and triumph, but already experiencing the increasingly bizarre collective psychosis of a city built on lies. With the charmingly frank and diffident Stefan Gillespie as our guide, The City of Lies, by turns harrowing, tender and hopeful, is Michael Russell’s most accomplished novel to date. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times’ crime fiction column for June.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One to Watch: SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain

SLEEPING BEAUTIES (Quercus) is the third in Jo Spain’s acclaimed series featuring DI Tom Reynolds, following on from WITH OUR BLESSING and BENEATH THE SURFACE. Quoth the blurb elves:
The inspector frowned and examined the earth under the trees. As he scanned the glade, his stomach lurched. One, two, three, four. Five, counting the mound of earth disturbed under the tent. Somebody had cleared the earth of its natural layer and sown their own flowers.
  In five places.
  Five graves.

  A young woman, Fiona Holland, has gone missing from a small Irish village. A search is mounted, but there are whispers. Fiona had a wild reputation. Was she abducted, or has she run away?
  A week later, a gruesome discovery is made in the woods at Ireland’s most scenic beauty spot - the valley of Glendalough. The bodies are all young women who disappeared in recent years. D.I. Tom Reynolds and his team are faced with the toughest case of their careers - a serial killer, who hunts vulnerable women, and holds his victims captive before he ends their lives.
  Soon the race is on to find Fiona Holland before it’s too late.
  SLEEPING BEAUTIES will be published on September 21st. For more on Jo Spain, clickety-click here

Monday, June 26, 2017

One to Watch: THE STOLEN GIRLS by Patricia Gibney

Patricia Gibney published her debut novel, THE MISSING ONES, on March 16th, but she’s obviously not a woman to rest on her laurels. The second offering in the Detective Lottie Parker series, THE STOLEN GIRLS (Bookouture), will be published on July 6th (e-book only). Quoth the blurb elves:
The young woman standing on Lottie’s step was a stranger. She was clutching the hand of a young boy. ‘Help me,’ she said to Lottie. ‘Please help me.’
  One Monday morning, the body of a young pregnant woman is found. The same day, a mother and her son visit the house of Detective Lottie Parker, begging for help to find a lost friend.
  Could this be the same girl?
  When a second victim is discovered by the same man, with the murder bearing all the same hallmarks as the first, Lottie needs to work fast to discover how else the two were linked. Then two more girls go missing.
  Detective Lottie Parker is a woman on the edge, haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her family together through difficult times. Can she fight her own demons and catch the killer before he claims another victim?
  For more on Patricia Gibney, clickety-click here

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Publication: THE CARDINAL’S COURT by Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison is one of the unsung heroes (heroines) of Irish crime fiction, and one of its most prolific authors too. THE CARDINAL’S COURT (The History Press), the first in a new series to feature lawyer Hugh Mac Egan, didn’t make my radar when it was published in April, but it sounds a terrific prospect. Quoth the blurb elves:
‘To shoot a man on the spur of the moment in the presence of the king and his court, not to mention the cardinal and his household, that took a boldness … Or utter despair.’
  HAMPTON COURT, 1522. Lawyer Hugh Mac Egan has arrived from Ireland to draw up the marriage contract between James Butler, son of his employer the Earl of Ormond, and Anne Boleyn – a dynastic alliance that will resolve an age-old inheritance dispute. But Anne, it seems, has other ideas. Her heart is set on Harry Percy, heir to the magnificent earldom of Northumberland, sparking rivalry between the two young men.
  When a member of Cardinal Wolsey’s palace staff is found shot dead with an arrow, Percy is quick to give evidence that implicates Butler. And with Percy’s testimony backed up by Butler’s artful bride-to-be, things start to look bleak for the young Irishman. In Tudor England, the accused is guilty until proven innocent.
  Against the backdrop of the Lenten festivities, Mac Egan sets out to exonerate his patron’s heir and find the real killer, uncovering as he does so the many factions and intrigues that lie beneath the surface at the cardinal’s court.
  For more on Cora Harrison, clickety-click here

Friday, June 23, 2017

One to Watch: AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy

Shane Dunphy has previously published a number of non-fiction titles, but as S.A. Dunphy he publishes his debut novel AFTER SHE VANISHED (Hachette Ireland). Quoth the blurb elves:
Eighteen years ago David Dunnigan took his beloved six-year-old niece Beth on a shopping trip. They stopped on a crowded street to hear some buskers. She took her hand from his for a split second. And when he turned around, she was gone.
  Now Dunnigan, his life shattered, is a criminology lecturer and also works as a consultant for the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Harcourt Street, specialising in cases involving missing persons. That’s how he crosses paths with Harry, a young boy living on the streets whose parents have disappeared.
  As Dunnigan finds himself drawn into the world of The Warrens, a transient place where the dark underbelly of society lives, will he be able to help Harry? And what of Beth will he find there?
  AFTER SHE VANISHED will be published on July 13th. For an interview with S.A. Dunphy, clickety-click here

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Bigotry and hate crimes provide the backdrop to Brian McGilloway’s Bad Blood (Corsair, €15.99), the fourth in his series to feature DS Lucy Black of Derry’s Public Protection Unit. In this fascinating snapshot of contemporary Northern Ireland, however, which is set against the impending Brexit referendum, the bigotry and hatred is no longer confined to sectarianism: Lucy separately investigates the intimidation of a Roma family on the Greenway Estate, and the murder of a young gay man, bludgeoned to death with a rock. Intolerance is the new normal, it seems, for ‘the community-sanctioned psychopaths defending their culture’ who maintain their stranglehold on their tiny fiefdoms. A compelling tale of twisted loyalties and betrayals, the story plays out in the mean streets and back alleyways populated by a lost tribe, long since poisoned and abandoned by their politicians, who wander the concrete wilderness following the faint echo of the long-promised ‘peace dividend’. The clean-living and morally sound Lucy Black may be too good to be true by the standards of today’s crime fiction as she pursues the truth through Derry’s claustrophobic labyrinth, but like McGilloway’s previous creation, DI Benedict Devlin, she represents the hope that things may change, and perhaps even for the better. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times’ crime column for June.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Event: Noireland International Crime Fiction Festival

Hear ye, hear ye, and throw another trumpet parp on the fire there, please, maestro. I am reliably informed (by a combination of guesswork and speculation, natch) that details for the inaugural Noireland International Crime Fiction Festival will be available in the shortest order possible, and perhaps even as early as next week. What we do know – having diligently researched the topic as befits a professional journalist (koff) – is that said festival will take place at the Europa Hotel from October 27th to 29th, and that said festival is (quote) ‘A brand new crime festival with a distinctly Irish accent.’ After donning the old deerstalker and snorting a couple of lines, we further deduce from the fact that the festival is being held in Belfast that the imperishable No Alibis bookstore, and its equally unsinkable proprietor David Torrans, will likely be involved to a greater or lesser degree (which is not to rule out the possibility of David and No Alibis not being involved at all), and that the line-up will include crime fiction writers both domestic and international. Here endeth the speculation and guesswork previously advertised.
  To sign up for Noireland updates, clickety-click here

Review: CARDBOARD GANGSTERS by Mark O’Connor

The Irish crime flick comes of age with Cardboard Gangsters (18s), in which Jason Connolly (John Connors), ‘sick of waiting on line for a hand-out’, decides to muscle in on the drug trade on Dublin’s Darndale estates. Aided (but largely abetted) by his buddies Whacker (Alan Clinch), Dano (Fionn Walton) and Glenner (Paul Alwright), Jason goes toe-to-toe with local gangland kingpin, Derra Murphy (Jimmy Smallhorne), a bravura act compounded by Jason’s inability to resist the temptation of leaping into bed with Derra’s wife Kim (Kierston Wareing) … The comparisons with Love / Hate are unavoidable, but it’s by no means a stretch to suggest that Cardboard Gangsters is an Irish Little Caesar, charting as it does the mercurial rise of a feral criminal who recognises no law but his own. Directed by Mark O’Connor, who co-writes with John Connors, the story fairly thrums with menace, as the hemmed-in Jason simmers at his lack of opportunity and threatens to explode at any moment. More of a strategist than his impulsive friends, Jason understands the extent to which the system is rigged against him; for all his innate intelligence, however, Jason also understands that in ‘the jungle’ (aka Darndale), only the strongest, the cruellest and the most ruthless thrive. Caustically funny, the doom-laden plot doesn’t throw up too many surprises, mainly because Mark O’Connor and John Connors adhere to the classic noir story arc, but the film powers along on the strength of Connors’ phenomenal performance as he creates an anti-hero who is by turns charismatic, repellent, sympathetic and ultimately tragic. ***** ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: LITTLE BONES by Sam Blake

Skeletons tumble out of cupboards early on in Sam Blake’s debut novel, when the little bones of the title are found sewn into the hem of an old wedding dress owned by artist Zoe Grant. Garda detective Cathy Connolly makes the macabre discovery when she is called to Zoe’s house in Dun Laoghaire to investigate what she assumes will be a routine break-and-enter, her horror compounded by the fact that Cathy herself is newly pregnant. Has Zoe murdered a baby? And if so, where are the rest of the infant’s remains?
  It’s an intriguing opening gambit, but Blake doesn’t rest on her laurels. Soon after, Zoe’s fabulously wealthy grandmother Lavinia is found dead in mysterious circumstances, and a cold-blooded killer from Las Vegas arrives in south County Dublin with the FBI hot on his heels. Meanwhile, in London, Emily and Tony Cox volunteer to care for the aging Mary, a mugging victim whose addled memory offers us glimpses of a privileged upbringing not entirely dissimilar to that of Lavinia Grant.
  The reader, of course, understands that these apparently unrelated plot strands must converge at some point, dragged together by the resourceful Cathy Connolly. A three-time national kick-boxing champion, Cathy is a likeable protagonist, a force of nature who projects an impressive physicality and professionalism even as her interior monologues betray her emotional confusion and self-doubt. In this she is reminiscent of Jane Casey’s London-based Maeve Kerrigan and Alex Barclay’s Denver-based Ren Bryce, characters who are the antithesis of the supremely self-confident and all-conquering heroes of the more macho style of thriller, and all the more fascinating for it.
  Moreover, it quickly becomes clear as the story unfolds that Sam Blake hasn’t employed the motif of an infant’s bones simply for the sake of an attention-grabbing narrative gambit. Cathy’s boss, Dawson O’Rourke, reminds Cathy of a cold case from the 1970s, when a new-born baby was murdered with a knitting-needle, the investigation of which was botched by the Gardaí. That case in turn leads us back into the 1950s, with Blake evoking the kind of suffocating patriarchal society in which a desperate young woman, having given birth out of wedlock, might be driven to take exceptionally desperate measures. Not that much has changed for Cathy Connolly; on hearing the Angelus bells, Cathy is reminded “that the Church was watching, waiting, like a great black crow hungry for the weak to stumble.” Blake isn’t the first Irish crime writer to engage with the long shadow of the Church’s malign influence, of course – Ken Bruen’s Priest and Jo Spain’s debut With Our Blessing spring to mind – but here she handles her material with an impressive sensitivity to the horrors visited upon generations of Irish women.
  That said, the latter stages are less convincing than Blake’s set-up promises. A veritable blizzard of revelations is required to tie together the various plot-strands, and credibility is strained by some of the developments required to bring the truth to light. The pace is frenetic, and the last third in particular is chock-a-block with twists and reversals, but readers who prefer a more patient, inevitable denouement might find themselves disorientated by the sheer volume of shocks and surprises Cathy Connolly unearths as the story races toward its pulsating climax.
  For the most part, however, Little Bones is a notably ambitious debut novel, a meticulously researched police procedural and a striking example of the crime novel as a vehicle for exploring society’s flaws and fault-lines. Cathy Connolly is a compelling character, a creation as complicated, flawed and gripping as Little Bones itself, and one who augurs well for Sam Blake’s future. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.