“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, 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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One to Watch: 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

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.

Monday, June 19, 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

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2017

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)

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 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)
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)
CANDYLAND by Jax Miller (July 13)
THE ORPHANS by Annemarie Neary (July 27)

RAVENHILL by John Steele (August 17)

THE RELUCTANT CONTACT by Stephen Burke (Sept 7)
SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain (September 21)

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)
CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Karen Perry (November 30)

UNDERTOW by Anthony J. Quinn (December 14)

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

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.