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, March 10, 2016

First Look: THE PLEA by Steve Cavanagh

Steve Cavanagh’s debut THE DEFENCE was published last year to universal acclaim, with yours truly describing it in the Irish Times as “a lot like a courtroom drama Lee Child might write about Jack Reacher’s younger, hotter-headed brother . . . a foot-to-the-floor thriller that pulls out with tyres smoking and takes no prisoners until it judders to a halt 400 pages later.” The follow-up, THE PLEA (Orion), also features that novel’s protagonist, New York lawyer Eddie Flynn, and the set-up reads a lot like this:
Fraud. Blackmail. Murder. It’s all in a day’s work for Eddie Flynn.
  For years, major New York law firm Harland & Sinton has operated a massive global fraud. When a client of the firm, David Child, is arrested for murder, the FBI ask con-artist-turned-lawyer Eddie Flynn to secure Child as his client and force him to testify against the firm.
  Eddie’s not a man to be coerced into representing a guilty client, but the FBI have incriminating files on Eddie’s wife, and if Eddie won’t play ball, she’ll pay the price.
  When Eddie meets Child he’s convinced the man is innocent, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With the FBI putting pressure on him to secure the plea, Eddie must find a way to prove Child’s innocence while keeping his wife out of danger - not just from the FBI, but from the firm itself.
  THE PLEA will be published on May 19. For more, clickety-click here

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: RAIN DOGS by Adrian McKinty

Set in Northern Ireland in 1987, Rain Dogs (Serpent’s Tail) is the fifth in Adrian McKinty’s series of novels featuring RUC detective Sean Duffy. When the body of Lily Bigelow is discovered inside Carrickfergus Castle early one morning, it looks as if the young British journalist has taken her own life. Duffy has his doubts, some of which are shared by his colleagues McCrabban and Lawson, but the alternative is that Lily Bigelow was murdered in a place, and at a time, when it would have been impossible for a killer to get in or out of the castle.
  The internal tension of the early Sean Duffy stories (a Catholic policeman viewed with suspicion by his largely Protestant and frequently sectarian colleagues) is no longer a factor in the series, given that Duffy has long since proven himself a capable, if occasionally maverick, detective. Indeed, the Troubles barely intrude on the events of Rain Dogs, even if the story, as is generally the case with the Duffy novels, is rooted in historical events. Duffy’s investigation into Lily Bigelow’s death leads him to a the Kincaid Young Offenders Institution in Belfast, where it appears that young boys in care are being exploited by ‘a paedophile ring operating at the highest levels of British government’ (the Kincaid institution stands in here for the Kincora Boys’ Home, which was engulfed in a sex abuse scandal at the beginning of the 1980s).
  Despite the dark subject matter, Rain Dogs makes for a breezy, blackly humourous read, particularly when McKinty (now living in Australia) has Duffy hold forth on his home town: “Carrickfergus had an embarrassment of abandoned factories that had been set up in the optimistic sixties, closed in the pessimistic seventies and were on the verge of ruin, now that we were in the apocalyptic eighties.” The fact that Sean Duffy finds himself investigating his second locked-room mystery becomes something of a running joke. “Policemen in Northern Ireland do not get two locked-room mysteries in one career,” Duffy declares, which leads his subordinate Lawson to offer Bayes’s Theorem on conditional probability (!) to explain how it might actually be possible; meanwhile, Duffy spends half the story telling us that he is not Miss Marple, Gideon Fell, Inspector Maigret, Hercule Poirot, or any other fictional refugee from the Golden Age of locked-room mysteries.
  He protests too much, although it’s fair to say Sean Duffy is more typical of the conventional hardboiled detective than he is of the Golden Age’s sleuths, a classic anti-authority loner who struggles to sustain any personal relationship other than the one he maintains with the nearest bottle or mind-altering substance. Which is to say, Adrian McKinty is steeped in the crime novel’s lore and traditions; what is equally clear is the pleasure he takes in exploring the parameters of the police procedural, subverting expectations and poking fun at the tropes and conventions (chapters titled ‘Ed McBain’s Notebook’ and ‘Jimmy Savile’s Caravan’ give a flavour of the irreverent approach).
  The most enjoyable aspect of the novel, however, is McKinty’s unsentimental prose, a stark style that employs a terse, brutal poetry to evoke startling imagery. “I walked past the wreck of the Volvo,” Duffy tells us in the wake of a car bomb that has just killed Chief Inspector McBain. “The rear of the vehicle was completely gone and the rest was like some kind of abstract sculpture that Ballard might have liked. A headless torso covered with a blanket was in the driver’s seat.”
  All told, it’s a deliciously readable tale, as McKinty blends a fiendish locked-room mystery into a traditional police procedural and sends Sean Duffy jetting off to London, Finland and Dublin in pursuit of justice on behalf of Lily Bigelow. It may not be the most hard-hitting of this award-winning series (In the Morning I’ll Be Gone won Australia’s Ned Kelly Award in 2014), but Rain Dogs is arguably the most enjoyable Sean Duffy tale to date. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.