Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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, January 17, 2019

Publication: TWISTED by Steve Cavanagh

Last year’s winner of the CWA’s Gold Dagger Award, Steve Cavanagh publishes his latest thriller, TWISTED (Orion), on January 24. Quoth the blurb elves:
Who is JT LeBeau?
  A bestselling crime writer, whose words have gripped the world.
  The only mystery greater than his stories is his true identity.
  One woman thinks she’s found him - her husband has millions in the bank and a letter for the enigmatic author.
  But the truth is far more TWISTED ...
  It’s a twisty one, alright – no less an authority than Stuart Neville has already declared that TWISTED is possessed of ‘more twists than a Curly Wurly!’
  For more on Steve Cavanagh, clickety-click here

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

One to Watch: THE WYCH ELM by Tana French

Tana French’s latest novel THE WYCH ELM (Viking) seems set fair for yet another smash hit. To wit:
Named a best book of the fall by Vogue, Entertainment Weekly, Elle, Amazon, PopSugar, The Millions, LitHub, and Parade.
  A brilliant new work of suspense from “the most important crime novelist to emerge in the past 10 years.” (Washington Post)
  From the writer who “inspires cultic devotion in readers” (The New Yorker) and has been called “incandescent” by Stephen King, “absolutely mesmerizing” by Gillian Flynn, and “unputdownable” (People), comes a gripping new novel that turns a crime story inside out.
  Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.
  A spellbinding standalone from one of the best suspense writers working today, THE WITCH ELM asks what we become, and what we’re capable of, when we no longer know who we are.
  THE WYCH ELM will be published in the UK and Ireland on February 21st. For the New Republic review of the US edition of THE WITCH ELM, clickety-click here

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Publication: APPLE OF MY EYE by Claire Allan

Claire Allan follows her debut thriller HER NAME WAS ROSE with APPLE OF MY EYE (Avon), which will be published on January 19th. Quoth the blurb elves:
Just how far is a mother willing to go?
  When a mysterious note arrives for seven months pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.
  As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.
  Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother …
  For more information on Claire Allan, clickety-click here

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2018/19

Being a list of Irish crime fiction titles published / to be published in 2019. To wit:

2019

DARKEST TRUTH by Catherine Kirwan (January 10)
APPLE OF MY EYE by Claire Allan (January 19)
TWISTED by Steve Cavanagh (January 24)

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS by Jo Spain (February 7)
IF SHE RETURNED by S.A. Dunphy (February 7)
THE WYCH ELM by Tana French (February 19)

THE SCHOLAR by Dervla McTiernan (March 7)
THE GHOST FACTORY by Jenny McCartney (March 21)

CRUEL ACTS by Jane Casey (April 4)
THE KILLER IN ME by Olivia Kiernan (April 4)
A BOOK OF BONES by John Connolly (April 18)

FORGET ME NOT by Claire Allan (May 16)

NIGHT BOAT TO TANGIER by Kevin Barry (June 6)
LOST YOU by Haylen Beck (June 27)

THE CITY IN FLAMES by Michael Russell (July 4)
THE CHAIN by Adrian McKinty (July 9)
THE BOY WHO FELL by Jo Spain (July 11)

THE HOODED GUNMAN by John Curran (September 19)

THE BODY FALLS by Andrea Carter (October 3)
INTO THE FIRE by Arlene Hunt (October 6)

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

Friday, December 21, 2018

Short Story: ‘On a Cold Winter’s Night’

All three regular readers of this blog will likely remember that I posted a short story by Lily last year, called ‘A Letter from Evangeline’. This year’s offering is called ‘On a Cold Winter’s Night’. Her OCD dad inserted a few commas, made two spelling corrections and changed a date; otherwise, the story is entirely Lily’s work. To wit:

‘On a Cold Winter’s Night’


Kate sank down into the squashy armchair in the living room, having just had dinner. She had eaten in silence, staring into space. This is what she did most days, since May the 4th, 1998, when Paddy had his terrible accident.
  Kate shivered. She went to turn on the radiators. She never used the fire anymore. Paddy used to love the fire. When he came home from the factory on a cold day, when he could see his breath and his cheeks were all rosy, he would love nothing more than building a fire and watching it ignite. ‘That’s a cracking fire,’ he’d announce. And then he’d sit there in front of the fire, warming himself. He was wrapped up in his own thoughts, and a fool would know better than to disturb him then. She sighed and turned on the radiators.
  It was Christmas but you wouldn’t know. Every other house in the estate was decorated festively but not this one. Paddy had adored Christmas. He would come home every night with a new decoration, saying things like, ‘This would look good up on this door, Kate,’ or ‘They are gonna look the bee’s knees here.’ Kate had loved this, she had nodded her head in agreement, or said ‘Would it not look better facing this way?’ She’d watch him get the lights on the tree just how he wanted them and say, ‘Sure you would pay for that, now.’ But those days were gone and so was that Kate. She wanted to decorate, but when she went to get the Christmas boxes she found she simply couldn’t do it. And she was very old.
  She could hear ‘Silent Night’ being sung in the distance. That was his favourite carol. He had sang that the first Christmas they were married. As he sang he handed her the star and let her put it on the tree. They did this the next year and the next and the one after that, and so on, until that fateful day when Paddy left and it all came to an end.
  She looked at the tin can on the mantlepiece. It held about one hundred euro. She and Paddy were saving up to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. He was always talking about that trip. ‘When we reach the top,’ he’d say, ‘we’ll feel only divine.’
  Kate could feel the tears in her eyes.
  ‘He’ll be grand,’ she told herself. ‘He’s probably up there telling some poor stranger about that great game Wexford had back in 1940.’ She wiped her eyes. She did this sometimes, just sat and thought about Paddy all evening. She wished she wasn’t so alone. She had no children, no grandchildren, no Paddy. She rubbed her forehead. It was as if she was trying to smooth out the wrinkles. Laughter lines, she called them. But those laughter lines came from a time when she rarely laughed.
  Just then the doorbell rang. She rubbed her eyes and plastered a smile across her face. It was carollers, collecting money for charity. As they sang she felt as though Paddy was there with her, singing along. When they had finished, she patted her pockets, looking for change. Then she spotted Paddy’s armchair. She stopped. She could almost picture him sitting there, reading his newspaper. She turned and walked over to the mantlepiece, took the tin can, and emptied the contents into the collection bucket. ‘You have yourself a very merry Christmas, now,’ she said.
  When they had gone, she went and got the star out of the Christmas box and held it close. She sat down in her squashy armchair and closed her eyes.
  She could hear someone singing, it was ‘Silent Night.’ She knew that voice. She opened her eyes, and there was Paddy.
By Lily Burke, aged 10

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Irish Times’ Crime Fiction ‘Best Of’ 2018

The Irish Times published a ‘Best of Crime Fiction 2018’ column last weekend. My two cents runs as follows:
Mick Herron’s London Rules (John Murray), the fifth in his blackly comic ‘Jackson Lamb’ spy series, got the year off to a cracking start as it filleted the pretensions of Britain’s contemporary intelligence forces. Dirk Kurbjuweit delivered a gripping account of domestic terror in Fear (Orion), in which a family comes to terms with living cheek-by-jowl with its stalker. Alafair Burke’s 12th novel, The Wife (Faber), surfed the #metoo zeitgeist in a psychological thriller about a woman forced to second-guess her instincts and principles.
  Set in the Australian Outback, Jane Harper’s brilliant second novel, Force of Nature (Little, Brown), proved her award-winning debut The Dry was no fluke. Olivia Kiernan’s Dublin-set police procedural debut, Too Close to Breathe (riverrun), immediately established her as the heir to Tana French’s throne. Another debut, Cormac O’Keeffe’s Black Water (Black and White), was set on Dublin’s Grand Canal and delivered the darkest noir Irish crime fiction had to offer this year.
  John Connolly’s The Woman in the Woods (Hodder & Stoughton) was the 16th in his Charlie Parker series of Maine-set private eye novels, which reliably wove supernatural chills through a classic hardboiled set-up. Meanwhile, in Memento Mori (Bloomsbury), Ruth Downie’s series investigator, the Roman medicus Ruso, sets out to disprove a supernatural element in a murder in the spa town Aquae Sulis, aka modern Bath. Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand (Picador) was a gripping psychological thriller which drilled down through the genre’s conventions to get to the biochemistry of sociopathy.
  Under the Night (Faber) by Alan Glynn was a thrilling ride through the darker pages of recent American history, and served as a prequel to, and sequel of, his debut The Dark Fields. Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night (Orion) brought together Harry Bosch and Renée Ballard to investigate the cold case of a teenage girl murdered some decades ago. Eoin McNamee’s The Vogue was a lyrical, darkly poetic account of historical abuse and cold-blooded murder in small-town Northern Ireland. Liz Nugent’s third novel, Skin Deep (Penguin), blended reimagined Irish folktales and the contemporary psychological thriller to spectacular effect. Finally, Kevin McCarthy’s Wolves of Eden (W.W. Norton) was an epic account of a murder investigation conducted in the Old West as Fort Phil Kearny finds itself besieged by Chief Red Cloud. ~ Declan Burke
  This feature was first published in the Irish Times. For Declan Hughes’ ‘Best Of’, clickety-click here

Friday, December 14, 2018

Review: IN THE DARK RIVER by Conor Brady

Joe Swallow should be a happy man. Recently promoted to detective inspector in the Dublin Metropolitan Police as a result of consistent excellence, as detailed in former Irish Times editor Conor Brady’s previous Victorian-era novels – A June of Ordinary Murders (2012), The Eloquence of the Dead (2013) and A Hunt in Winter (2016) – Swallow is liked by the rank-and-file of Dublin Castle and esteemed by his chief, John Mallon. He has even earned the grudging respect of Dublin’s criminal fraternity, chief among them the Vanucchi Gang. Newly married to his beloved Maria, Joe Swallow should be able to put his feet up on his desk and enjoy the fruits of his labour.
  Not that he wants to. The tragedy of Maria’s recent miscarriage, and his inability to articulate his grief, have driven Swallow to take on a greater workload, overseeing an investigation into the skeleton discovered in an underground branch of the Poddle and taking responsibility for investigating an armed robbery at the Rathgar home of one of Dublin’s legal eagles. And then there’s the rather pressing issue of British intelligence operatives employing the Victorian equivalent of black ops as they try to destroy Charles Stewart Parnell and the Irish Parliamentary Party …
  In the Dark River opens in Madrid, with journalist Richard Piggott brooding on his disgrace. His attempt to smear Parnell revealed as forgeries, Piggott likely faces a charge of perjury should he return to Ireland. Was Piggott’s humiliation and ruin sufficient to cause him to take his own life, as the British Secret Service suggests? Or is Swallow right to believe that Piggott, a pawn, was simply taken off the board?
  Parnell’s imminent fall from grace casts a long shadow across In the Dark River – the reader understands that, in the long run, Swallow’s machinations as he strives to protect ‘the uncrowned king of Ireland’ are irrelevant. That flies in the face of the certainties (truth, justice, the status quo upheld) that crime fiction tends to offer, but Brady offers a similarly idiosyncratic take on the other investigations that occupy Swallow’s time: crooks get off scot-free, killers go unaccused, villains form covert alliances with the police. Don’t be fooled by the historical setting and the genteel tone, the ‘cosy’ style and the police procedural form: beneath its apparently placid surface, In the Dark River is anything but a traditional mystery novel.
  It’s as if the dark river – which we initially assume to be the Poddle, which wends its way beneath the Dublin streets, and in which the woman’s skeleton is discovered – is in fact Time itself. All the cases that present themselves for Swallow’s investigation began bubbling up long ago, and only emerge into view when it is too late for Swallow to do anything but belatedly appreciate the extent to which he is out of his depth. He can make all the appropriate gestures – open a murder book, delegate detectives to investigate killings and robberies, engage in counter-intelligence designed to frustrate the British Secret Service – but all the while the river keeps flowing relentlessly on.
  Joe Swallow is a good man, and a good policeman, but he is not superhuman. Crime was as intrinsic to Victorian Dublin as it was to the modern city, and one man, no matter how grudgingly respected he is, is going to persuade the Vanucchi Gang and their ilk to go straight. Despite Swallow’s best efforts, Charles Stewart Parnell is doomed. If that fatalistic streak runs contrary to the crime novel’s expectations, so be it. Joe Swallow – solid and dependable, loyal to the cause of the greater good even as he flounders about in the dark river – is arguably the most realistic policeman in Irish crime fiction’s thin blue line. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Launch: Anthony J. Quinn’s THE LISTENERS

Anthony J. Quinn launches THE LISTENERS (Head of Zeus) in Belfast’s No Alibis at 6.30pm on Thursday, December 13th. Previously the author of the Celsius Daly series, and a number of standalone novels, Anthony has embarked on a new series set in Scotland. Quoth the blurb elves:
Not long out of the fast-track training course at Edinburgh’s police college, Detective Sergeant Carla Herron is about to be tested to breaking point.
  She’s been called to Deepwell psychiatric hospital in the Scottish borders to interview a patient who has confessed to the murder of one of the hospital’s psychotherapists. The confession is vividly detailed, but for a man locked in a secure ward and under 24-hour surveillance, it is also utterly impossible.
  So why can’t the supposedly murdered psychotherapist be contacted? Why are the hospital staff so secretive, so difficult to work with? Why have other Deepwell patients made disturbingly similar confessions over the past year? Against the advice of her superiors, Carla delves deeper into the hospital’s past and is plunged into a labyrinth of jealousies, lies and hallucinations.
  Struggling to separate fact from fantasy, Carla embarks on a chilling trail through the bleak uplands and dark forests of the Scottish borders, every step taking her closer to a final – deadly – reckoning.
  For more on Anthony J. Quinn, clickety-click here

Monday, December 10, 2018

Review: NORTHERN HEIST by Richard O’Rawe

Previously the author of three non-fiction titles, including Blanketmen, former Provisional IRA press officer Richard O’Rawe makes his crime fiction debut with Northern Heist (Merrion Press), in which James ‘Ructions’ O’Hare sets out to pull off ‘the biggest heist in Irish history’ by knocking over Belfast’s National Bank of Ireland. Set in 2004 – the year of the Northern Bank robbery – the novel offers a driving plot teeming with colourful characters, as Ructions, as per the sub-genre’s conventions, schemes to pull off the fabled one last job. It’s a tense tale – the IRA and the newly formed PSNI are both keeping tabs on our anti-hero – but where Northern Heist really scores is in the human detail, and particularly in terms of the interaction between the professional criminals and the bank staff kidnapped to facilitate the robbery. The stakes might easily have been raised had O’Rawe delivered more of the wider political context – the likely impact of the robbery on the Good Friday Agreement, for example, receives only a brief mention – but otherwise Northern Heist is a pulsating tale of vaulting ambition and establishes Richard O’Rawe as a crime novelist to reckon with.
  For more on Richard O’Rawe, clickety-click here

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Reviews: Irish Times crime fiction column, December 2018

My crime fiction column for the Irish Times this month is an all-Irish affair, and features Kevin McCarthy, Tanya Farrelly, Fiona Gartland, Nessa O’Mahony and Ken Bruen. To wit:

Kevin McCarthy’s first two novels, Irregulars and Peeler, were set against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, but Wolves of Eden (W.W. Norton) opens in the wake of the American Civil War, with the psychologically scarred Union Army veteran Lieutenant Molloy dispatched to Fort Phil Kearny in the Dakota Territory to ‘put boots on the gallows’ – i.e., investigate the apparent murder of the fort’s sutler and his wife. Molloy being an alcoholic determined to drink himself to death, the investigation is largely conducted by his second-in-command, Sergeant Kohn; woven through Kohn’s attempts to penetrate the code of omertà that pertains at Fort Kearny is a rambling, semi-literate confession written by Michael O’Driscoll, an Irish immigrant who has served with the Union Army during the recent War. A compelling tale of men who were ‘chucked into the roaring flames of history,’ Wolves of Eden is superbly detailed in its depiction of frontier soldiering, with Fort Kearny besieged by Chief Red Cloud and the story playing out against the events which led to the Fetterman Massacre of 1866. Flashing with shards of coal-black humour – Michael’s brother Tom, shot in the face at the battle of Chickamauga, has ‘a face that would make a funeral turn from a main road’ – Wolves of Eden is a brutal, blood-soaked and unsentimental account of the Old West that bears comparison with Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.
  Tanya Farrelly’s When Your Eyes Close (Killer Reads) is an audacious exercise in genre-blending. Nick Drake is an alcoholic who undergoes hypnotherapy in a desperate bid to curtail his boozing, only to witness himself committing multiple murders in what appears to be a previous life. Shaken to his core, and reluctantly believing himself to be the knife-wielding killer John Davis, Nick sets out to investigate what really happened – only to discover that Caitlin, the daughter he orphaned during his killing spree, is struggling to cope with the mysterious disappearance of her husband, David. Where Farrelly’s crime debut The Girl Behind the Lens came coated in gritty realism, When Your Eyes Close revels in its fantastical premise (even if much of Caitlin’s backstory is rooted in the ongoing homelessness crisis). The plot isn’t entirely seamless as Farrelly juggles her parallel time-lines, but the overall effect is an entertainingly off-beat account of a man determined to bring himself to justice.
  Big Pharma finds itself in the dock In the Court’s Hands (Poolbeg), the debut thriller from Irish Times journalist Fiona Gartland, which opens with Beatrice Barrington, a stenographer at the Dublin Criminal Court, observing a suspicious liaison in the Phoenix Park between Stephen O’Farrell, the accused in a high profile case, and the forewoman of the jury, Rachel Deere. When Rachel is subsequently found dead in her apartment, Beatrice suspects foul play, and enlists the help of ex-Garda detective Gabriel Ingram to help her investigate. There’s more than a hint of the Miss Marple about the prim, fussy and resolutely moral Beatrice Harrington, and In the Court’s Hands offers a neat blend of the courtroom drama and the amateur sleuth sub-genres, and even tosses in what appears to be an homage to Raymond Chandler as Beatrice, nosing around where she shouldn’t, finds herself drugged and incarcerated in a mental hospital. Regular flashbacks to the younger Beatrice’s life in 1980s Dublin leach tension from the main plot, but they are vividly rendered and contribute handsomely to a promising debut.
  Poet Nessa O’Mahony publishes her debut crime novel with The Branchman (Arlen House) which opens in 1925 with Michael Mackey, a detective officer in the newly formed Garda Special Branch, sent to the Garda barracks in Ballinasloe “to root out subversion”. Mackey, a veteran of numerous conflicts, isn’t fooled by the beauty of rural Galway: “It all looked innocent enough, but who knew what old animosities were lurking in those green fields?” There’s enough animosity to deliver a murder, certainly, and Mackey quickly discovers himself investigating the theft of a cache of stolen arms. O’Mahony is particularly strong on the everyday detail of a stranger negotiating a hazardous landscape – the character of Mackey is loosely based on her own grandfather, Michael McCann – and delivers a series of brief, intense chapters which generate a ferocious pace. Most fascinating, perhaps, is O’Mahony’s evocation of the wider political backdrop, that fragile, imperfect peace that took hold in the wake of the War of Independence and the Civil War.
  Jack Taylor returns in Ken Bruen’s In the Galway Silence (Head of Zeus), the 14th novel to feature the Galway-based private eye. Commissioned to investigate the bizarre murder of the anti-social Renaud twins, Jack quickly concludes that ‘It wasn’t a mystery as to them being killed but a mystery as to why it hadn’t happened sooner.’ The investigation, however, serves as springboard into a much wider exploration of the country’s ills, as Jack, self-described as ‘a broken PI’, wanders the mean streets of Galway lamenting the state of ‘the new broken Ireland.’ Post-modern to a fault, In the Galway Silence is littered with references to Jack Taylor’s preferred reading, which here includes the cult crime fiction authors Craig McDonald, Eddie Bunker and Daniel Woodrell, and further features the Galway-based author Scott Harden, whose ‘alleged stint in a South American jail had given him preternaturally totally white hair,’ and whose appearance causes Jack to believe that, ‘I could be looking at me fein (myself).’ Located on the literary spectrum somewhere between Charles Bukowski’s Pulp and the wilder extravagances of James Crumley’s private eye C.W. Sughrue, In the Galway Silence exudes a nihilistic thrill in smashing the crime fiction conventions to smithereens. ~ Declan Burke

  This column first appeared in the Irish Times.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Irish Crime Fiction Novel of the Year 2019

Hearty congrats to Liz Nugent, who scored an impressive double whammy last night in winning the IBAS Irish Crime Fiction Novel of the Year for SKIN DEEP (Penguin), and also the Ryan Tubridy Show Listeners’ Choice Award. Nicely done, ma’am.
  Commiserations to all the contenders in both categories; if it’s any consolation, you were up against a veritable force of nature in Liz Nugent.
  For all the details of the winners in all categories, clickety-click here

Monday, November 26, 2018

Shortlist: Irish Crime Fiction Book of the Year

It’s that time of the year again, when the shortlists for the Irish Books of the Year awards are announced, and as always the Crime Fiction category offers some fascinating choices. To wit:
Irish Independent Crime Fiction Book of the Year

Skin Deep – Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
A House of Ghosts – W. C. Ryan (Bonnier Zaffre)
The Confession – Jo Spain (Quercus)
One Click – Andrea Mara (Poolbeg)
The Ruin – Dervla McTiernan (Sphere)
Thirteen – Steve Cavanagh (Orion)
  Meanwhile, there’s five crime titles in the six nominees for the Ryan Tubridy Listener’s Choice Award. To wit:
RTE Radio One’s The Ryan Tubridy Show Listeners’ Choice Award

Ladder to the Sky – John Boyne (Doubleday)
The Stolen Girls – Patricia Gibney (Bookouture)
The President is Missing – Bill Clinton and James Patterson (Century)
Ruin – Dervla McTiernan (Sphere)
Skin Deep – Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn (HarperCollins)
  Hearty congratulations to all the nominees; the winners will be announced on November 27th. To vote for your favourite title, clickety-click here

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Publication: WHEN YOUR EYES CLOSE by Tanya Farrelly

Tanya Farrelly published her second thriller, WHEN YOUR EYES CLOSE (Killer Reads), on November 15th. Quoth the blurb elves:
THREE LIVES ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE FOREVER
  Nick Drake is determined to get his life back on track. And if hypnosis has even a chance of working, he’ll give it a try. But as his eyes close, Nick sees something that terrifies him.
  Michelle Carlin is Nick’s girlfriend. She’s determined to stick by Nick no matter what, but she can tell he’s hiding something from her, something dangerous.
  Caitlin Davis is still reeling from the suspicious disappearance of her husband a year ago. But she has secrets of her own which could ruin her and everything she holds dear.
  These three people’s lives are set to collide. And as long-buried secrets, lies and betrayals come to light, they will be lucky to escape unscathed
  For more on Tanya Farrelly, clickety-click here

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Paperback: THE LIAR’S GIRL by Catherine Ryan Howard

First published last February, Catherine Ryan Howard’s THE LIAR’S GIRL (Corvus) will be published in paperback on January 3rd, 2019. Quoth the blurb elves:
Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, Will Hurley, is ten years into his life sentence when the body of a young woman is fished out of the Grand Canal. Though detectives suspect they are dealing with a copycat, they turn to Will for help. He claims he has the information the police need, but will only give it to one person – the girl he was dating when he committed his horrific crimes.
  Alison Smith has spent the last decade abroad, putting her shattered life in Ireland far behind her. But when she gets a request from Dublin imploring her to help prevent another senseless murder, she is pulled back to face the past - and the man - she's worked so hard to forget.
  For more on Catherine Ryan Howard, clickety-click here

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

William Goldman RIP

Very sad news late last week, when I heard of the death of William Goldman. I’ve been a fan of William Goldman since the age of 15, when I first read MARATHON MAN, at which point everything changed. I didn’t realise it at the time, but if there is such a thing as the Top Five Thriller Twists, at least two, and maybe three, are to be found in MARATHON MAN.
  Goldman, of course, was a novelist and screenwriter, winning two Oscars. His finest work included the scripts for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President’s Men, as well as the novel (and screenplay) THE PRINCESS BRIDE.
  I watched The Princess Bride last Friday night, and read MARATHON MAN over the weekend, and both are as fresh as the day they were released (“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”).
  It was probably my fifth or sixth reading of MARATHON MAN, and maybe it’s because of my age now, but I’d never realised how truly brutal and cynical it is, especially as it nears its climax, when its reluctant hero, college student Babe Levy, addresses his nemesis, the former Nazi Szell:
‘I don’t know if you’ll understand this, but once upon a time, long ago, I was a scholar and a marathon man, but that fella’s gone now, dead I suppose, but I remember something he thought, which was that if you don’t learn the mistakes of the past, you’ll be doomed to repeat them. Well, we’ve been making mistakes with people like you, because public trials are bullshit and executions are games for winners – all this time we should have been giving you back pain. That’s the real lesson. That’s the loser’s share, just pain, pure and simple, pain and torture, no hotshot lawyers running around trying to see that justice is done. I think we’d have a nice peaceful place here if all you war-makers knew you better not start something because if you lost, agony was just around the bend. That’s what I’d like to give you. Agony.’
  All of which is a longer, and rather more vengeful, version of Orestes’ address to his father’s murderer, Aegisthus, at the conclusion of Sophocles’ Electra:
Orestes: You must go before me.
Aegisthus: That I may not escape you?
Orestes: That you may not be killed where you would choose. You shall taste all the bitterness of death. If retribution were swift and certain, and the lawless man paid with his life, there would be fewer villains.
  So there you have it – justice as swift and savage retribution, and only a couple millennia or so between them. If you’re an aspiring thriller writer, and you haven’t read MARATHON MAN, I’d suggest buying it immediately and then leaving it to one side until you’ve finished your first draft, lest you discover yourself, as I did, sorely tempted to steal all its best bits.