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.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Interview: Jo Spain

I sat down with Jo Spain (right) a couple of weeks ago to interview her for the Irish Times. As is generally the case with crime writers (on this side of the pond, at least), Jo’s first introduction to crime fiction came courtesy of Enid Blyton:
Dirty Little Secrets is Jo Spain’s sixth novel in four years, with all five to date becoming bestsellers. It’s a prodigious output, and one that can be directly traced back to a precocious five-year-old devouring Enid Blyton stories in a bid to escape her “grim surroundings” in North Dublin’s Belcamp.
  “The people, yes, there was a lot of love, a lot of humour,” says Spain, “but aesthetically it wasn’t pleasant. There was a field beside us where dead horses would be dumped. I got attacked by a dog once, and the next day the family who owned the dog slit its throat and dumped it in the field rather than pay the vet’s bill. Meanwhile, I was reading Enid Blyton, and I was on Kirrin Island, and Aunt Fanny was making me toasted crumpets . . . I used to dream of midnight feasts. Enid Blyton,” she laughs, “made me hungry all the time.”
  For the rest of the interview, clickety-click here

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Jack-A-NOIR-Y: The NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival

Belfast’s NOIRELAND crime fiction festival returns, running from 8-10 March, with a superb line-up of international and domestic writers that includes Belinda Bauer, Stuart Neville, Ann Cleeves, Adrian McKinty, Eoin McNamee, Andrea Carter, Anthony Horowitz, Olivia Kiernan, Stuart MacBride, Denise Mina, Jo Spain, William Ryan, Steve Cavanagh, and many more.
A new addition to the NOIRELAND festival is ‘Jack-A-Noir-Y’. To wit:
The NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival is thrilled to announce Adrian Dunbar will be appearing at this year’s weekend event which takes place 8-10 March in Belfast.
  The renowned Northern Irish actor and star of BBC’s Line of Duty will be presenting ‘Jack-a-NOIR-y’, a bedtime story for grown-ups. Dunbar will be reading an exclusive extract from A Book of Bones, the forthcoming new novel from international bestseller John Connolly.
  Jack-a-NOIR-y is a brand new event for NOIRELAND 2019. The Irish love of a good yarn is renowned, and has fostered a nation of storytellers. The soaring popularity of audiobooks and podcasts shows it’s not just the Irish who love listening to a great story, so this is sure to be a festival favourite.
  Jack-a-NOIR-y is the closing event of Saturday’s festival programme and takes place in the atmospheric surroundings of the penthouse room of Belfast’s Europa Hotel. It will feature a filmed introduction from John Connolly, followed by Adrian Dunbar reading an extended extract from A Book of Bones.
For all the details of the festival, including a full rundown on all the authors appearing, along with details of how to book your tickets, clickety-click here

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2018/19

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


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.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Edgar Nomination: THE LIAR’S GIRL by Catherine Ryan Howard

Belated-but-hearty congratulations to Catherine Ryan Howard, whose THE LIAR’S GIRL has been shortlisted for an Edgar award in the ‘Best Novel’ category. The full shortlist is as follows:

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard (Blackstone Publishing)
House Witness by Mike Lawson (Grove Atlantic – Atlantic Monthly Press)
A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos (Amazon Publishing – Thomas & Mercer)
Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley (Hachette Book Group – Mulholland)
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne (Penguin Random House – Hogarth)
A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn (Penguin Random House – Berkley)
  The very best of luck to Catherine – we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed come April 25th, when the winner will be announced.
  For a full list of all the nominees in all the Edgar award categories, clickety-click here

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Review: THE REDEEMED by Tim Pears

Banished from the rural idyll of the West Country in the years leading up to the First World War, young Leo Sercombe – The Horseman of the first volume of Tim Pears’ trilogy, and subsequently one of The Wanderers of the second novel, and now, we presume, one of The Redeemed (Bloomsbury) in the concluding volume – must walk through fire if he is to return to his beloved Devon and the landscape that Leo, acutely attuned to nature’s rhythms, has always instinctively associated with a divine presence.
  The Redeemed, however, opens a long way from the West Country. Catapulted into the flames of the North Sea when the ship on which he is serving is shelled during the Battle of Scapa Flow, the half-drowned Leo rails bitterly against the God that has forsaken him. The prelapsarian paradise of The Horseman has long since been lost: ‘The horsemen who had been foretold had come. Fire and smoke and sulphur would issue from the horses’ mouths.’
  Whilst Leo grapples with Revelations and apocalyptic visions, Lottie – Lord Prideaux’s daughter, whom the young Leo dared to befriend before being beaten and exiled for his familiarity – has grown into an accomplished veterinarian. But the West Country is no longer the arcadian ideal Leo left behind. ‘Reproduction is the most extraordinary miracle in the whole of nature,’ Lottie’s mentor Patrick Jago tells her, but it’s also ‘a savage business’. A savagery that is by no means the sole preserve of the animals she treats; men, as the unprotected Lottie quickly discovers, are capable of cruelties that animals couldn’t even imagine.
  Told in parallel narratives which chart Leo and Lottie’s tortuous journey towards their destiny together, The Redeemed is a hugely satisfying conclusion to the West Country trilogy. Tim Pears’ language is as spare and evocative as ever – Leo, smelling the sweat of men readying for battle, realises the musky, rank stench comes from ‘deeper pores, primitive glands, some true authentic depth of their being’ – and his eye for the telling detail is undiminished: ‘the carter tugged with all his force, and the fore-leg was yanked and ripped off the body of the dead foal so abruptly that it came slithering out of the vagina of the mare and the carter staggered backwards across the wet straw of the loose box with the severed limb, like a man astounded by what he’d been given, struggling to retain his balance.’
  The theme is one of rebirth, of endlessly renewing possibilities. ‘We may be an old species nearin the end a days,’ says Leo, ‘or we may be a young species with heaven on earth ahead of us.’ The future, whatever it holds, will be far more complex than the simple certainties that defined Leo’s childhood: ‘I want to work with horses … Just as tractors is takin over.’
  But even as new technologies, and the war to end all wars, and the wisdom of age all combine to erode Lottie and Leo’s belief in the established order of things, a hard-won faith in themselves and their place in the natural cycle prevails. It is a shared vision derived from their mutual love of, and understanding of, horses:
  Lottie said that when she looked into the eyes of a horse, she acknowledged that it does not see as much as humans do, nor understand much of what it sees. ‘But I have the feeling I glimpse what is behind the horse,’ she said. ‘What made him.’
  ‘I don’t know. Is there a need to name it?’
  Leo shook his head in agreement.
  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

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

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 RenĂ©e 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