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, December 1, 2016

Event: Writing the Crime Novel with Declan Burke

The lovely people at the Irish Writers’ Centre have been in touch to ask if I’d be interested in facilitating a one-day course on writing the crime novel. It takes place on December 3rd in Co. Tyrone (details below), and I’m very much looking forward to it. To wit:
All great crime fiction stems from the fact that character is mystery. From whodunits to psychological thrillers, via private eyes and police procedurals, we’ll uncover the crucial elements that make for a memorable crime / mystery novel. Embracing plot and character, the authorial voice, style and language, setting and tone, this course employs classic and contemporary crime writing to illustrate the way forward for authors seeking to hone their craft and maximise the impact of their writing.
  Declan Burke is an award-winning author of six novels, and the editor / co-editor of two non-fiction titles on crime writing. He is the editor of the short story anthology Trouble is Our Business (New Island).

Saturday 3rd December
Time: 10.30am – 4.30pm
Duration: 1 day
Venue: Ranfurly House, Co. Tyrone
Cost: €28/£25
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, November 21, 2016


I’m hugely looking forward to my annual pilgrimage to No Alibis in Belfast, where we’ll be conducting the Northern Ireland launch of TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island) on Friday evening. If you’re in or around Belfast that evening, we’d love to see you there. The details:

Fri 25th November 6.30pm,
No Alibis, 83, Botanic Avenue, Belfast

An evening of chat about Crime Fiction on the Emerald Isle with Declan Burke, John Connolly, Louise Phillips and Others

Thrilling, disturbing, shocking and moving, Trouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers is a compulsive anthology of original stories by Ireland’s best-known crime writers.

Patrick McGinley, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Colin Bateman, Eoin McNamee, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, Julie Parsons, John Connolly, Alan Glynn, Adrian McKinty, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay, Gene Kerrigan, Eoin Colfer, Declan Hughes, Cora Harrison, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Jane Casey, Niamh O’Connor, William Ryan Murphy, Louise Phillips, Sinéad Crowley, Liz Nugent.

Irish crime writers have long been established on the international stage as bestsellers and award winners. Now, for the first time ever, the best of contemporary Irish crime novelists are brought together in one volume.
Edited by Declan Burke, the anthology embraces the crime genre’s traditional themes of murder, revenge, intrigue, justice and redemption. These stories engage with the full range of crime fiction incarnations: from police procedurals to psychological thrillers, domestic noir to historical crime – but there’s also room for the supernatural, the futuristic, the macabre. As Emerald Noir blossoms into an international phenomenon, there has never been a more exciting time to be a fan of Irish crime fiction.


‘This collection can be confidently recommended to anyone who reads any type of crime fiction. They will find something to tease and tantalise their inner detective.’ – The Irish Times

‘Trouble Is Our Business is one of the essential literary fiction compendiums in Irish publishing this year.’ – Sunday Independent

‘A crime anthology certain to keep you on the edge of your seat’ – The Sunday Times

Thursday, November 17, 2016

News: Tana French Wins the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award

Hearty congratulations to Tana French, who last night won the Crime Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards with THE TRESPASSER. No shocks or surprises, then – it’s been a very strong year for Irish crime fiction, but Tana French is a phenomenon, and THE TRESPASSER is one of her finest offerings to date.
  Happily, Tana’s wasn’t the only crime novel to win on the night – Liz Nugent’s LYING IN WAIT (which was also shortlisted for the crime fiction gong) scooped the RTE Radio One Ryan Tubridy Listeners’ Choice Award, and Graham Norton’s HOLDING won the Popular Fiction Book Award.
  Commiserations, of course, to all the other shortlisted authors – there’s always next year. For the full list of winners at the Irish Book Awards, clickety-click here

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Publication: A HUNT IN WINTER by Conor Brady

A HUNT IN WINTER (New Island), set in Victorian Dublin, is the third in Conor Brady’s series of mystery novels to feature Detective Inspector Joe Swallow. Quoth the blurb elves:
Joe Swallow, newly promoted to detective inspector, is back, and life looks to be taking a turn for the better. But his new-found peace will soon be chaotically upturned, with far-reaching consequences.
  In Dublin, a series of violent attacks against women leads to an outbreak of panic and fear, and things on the home front are about to change in an unexpected way.
  In London, Charles Stewart Parnell tirelessly pursues the Irish cause for Home Rule. While the British are eager to discredit the Irish parliamentary leader and to quash the growing movement towards independence, Swallow’s conflicted loyalties pull him in different directions.
  Swallow has no choice but to traverse this volatile political scene, while his continuing hunt for a terrifying killer takes him across Europe in pursuit …
  For a review of Conor Brady’s THE ELOQUENCE OF THE DEAD, clickety-click here

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Publication: HIMSELF by Jess Kidd

London-born, with roots in Mayo, Jess Kidd sets her debut novel HIMSELF (Canongate) in County Mayo, and it sounds like quite the delight: Louis de Bernières describes it as ‘a magic realist murder mystery set in rural Ireland,’ while ML Stedman reckons that “Himself is a sort of Under Milk Wood meets The Third Policeman meets Agatha Christie.” Quoth the blurb elves:
When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the lies of his past.
  No one - living or dead - will tell Mahony what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite his certainty that more than one of the villagers knows the sinister truth.
  Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic debut novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence and buried secrets.
  For more on Jess Kidd, clickety-click here

Monday, November 7, 2016

Launch: A HUNT IN WINTER by Conor Brady

Detective Inspector Joe Swallow’s life has taken a turn for the better. Not only is he engaged to be married, but he has a baby on the way. But all too soon he is dragged into Dublin’s criminal underbelly. A Hunt in Winter finds Detective Swallow chasing a serial murderer down the dark alleys of Dublin. The only problem is, what he’s hunting may not be human at all. Dressed in a long overcoat and reeking of death and decay, this is a killer like no other. Conor Brady has, once again, crafted a meticulous novel, with the political atmosphere of 1800’s Dublin adding to the terror and darkness we have come to associate with this thrilling, accomplished and atmospheric series.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Diary: The German Tour for THE BIG O

Well, that was a blast. The first leg of the German tour to promote THE BIG O (Edition Nautilus) was terrific fun, taking me from Berlin to Erfurt, on to Braunschweig, back to Berlin, hence to Hamburg, and finally to Unna, for ‘Mord und Hellweg’, the biennial crime fiction festival billed as the biggest in Europe.
  It’s been a crazy week. Highlights included hearing scenes from THE BIG O performed by actors (in German, natürlich – a bizarre experience for yours truly); a reading in front of an audience of 250 in a brewery in Braunschweig, which offered as much beer as you can drink with your admission ticket (why aren’t all literary events held in breweries? – discuss); a reading in a mortuary (!); a guided tour of Hamburg’s St. Pauli and Reeperbahn district (I made my excuses and left, eventually); and trying to explain the term ‘screwball noir’ to German audiences when I haven’t the faintest idea of what it might mean in English.
  The experience, as before, was made utterly painless by my friend, guide and translator, Robert Brack, who is better known in Germany as a best-selling and highly accomplished crime author. For some reason, his novels (35 and counting) have yet to be translated into the English language, although I’d imagine some savvy publisher will do so very soon.
  So – that’s it for the first leg; I’ll be back in Germany again in 10 days’ time, for a couple of sold-out gigs in Berlin. By which time I might even have come up with a definition of ‘screwball noir’ …

Thursday, November 3, 2016

One to Watch: HEADBANGER / SAD BASTARD by Hugo Hamilton

No Exit Press are introducing a new series of ‘classic doubles’ – two books in one – and one of the lead titles will be Hugo Hamilton’s deadly duo HEADBANGER and SAD BASTARD, two seminal Irish crime fiction novels that were a little too far ahead of the curve for their own good when they were first published. Quoth the blurb elves:
Headbanger - Pat Coyne is a Dublin policeman who is passionately devoted to sorting out the world and its problems. For Coyne, such things as cars, crime, pollution and golf are all ominous signs of a disintegrating society. The world is committing suicide, with MTV droning in the background. Coyne’s principal mission is to deal with crime, Ireland’s biggest growth industry. Though only a cop on the beat, he decides to take on the notorious gang leader, Drummer Cunningham. When a murder investigation leaves detectives clueless, he enters into a personal feud with the underworld, resulting in disastrous consequences for himself and his family. Coyne is a Dublin Dirty Harry for whom everything begins to go wrong.

Sad Bastard - Garda Pat Coyne - aka ‘Mr Suicide’ is back. Injured in the line of duty, he is now out of work with too much time on his hands. Living alone, he’s become more obsessive and volatile, developing a fetish for women’s knickers. When a body washes up on the docks, the prime suspect is none other than the former Garda’s son, Jimmy. Like father like son, both Coynes are notorious for their sweeping spells of self-destruction. But while Pat’s motives lean toward cleaning up the world’s messes, Jimmy possesses a taste for mayhem. Coyne’s estranged wife blames him, his mother-in-law berates him, and his therapist labels him psychotic. But when a duo of criminal thugs try to kill his boy, Coyne decides that it’s up to him to straighten things out.
  HEADBANGER / SAD BASTARD will be published on March 23rd, 2017. For all the details, clickety-click here

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Public Vote: The Irish Crime Novel of the Year

The shortlists for the Irish Books of the Year were announced last week, and now it’s time for Joe and Josephine Public to have their say – the winning novel will be decided by public vote, so vote early and vote often. The crime fiction shortlist runs thusly:
Crime Fiction Award
Distress Signals – Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus)
Little Bones – Sam Blake (Bonnier Zaffre)
Lying in Wait – Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
The Constant Soldier – William Ryan (Mantle)
The Drowning Child – Alex Barclay (HarperCollins)
The Trespasser – Tana French (Hachette Ireland)
  To vote for your preferred candidate, clickety-click here. And while you’re about it, and if the spirit so moves you, please feel free to vote for Jane Casey’s stunning ‘Green, Amber, Red’ (from the TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS anthology) in the Short Story category.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Publication: PURSUIT by John McAllister

John McAllister has previously published two police procedural mysteries in the ‘Barlow’ series, but PURSUIT (Glenlish Publishing) is a standalone thriller about a professional hitman. Quoth the blurb elves:
“A man, a van and a dog, you’d think they’d be easy found.”
  Professional hitman, Doc Terence, has been given an impossible contract. Half of the Organisation wants him to find and kill disgraced politician, Paul Bradley. But the other half, led by Doc’s brother, Jimmy, insist on interrogating the man first. Bradley proves elusive and, as frustrations build, the body count mounts.
  Then there’s the women in Doc’s life: his runaway wife, and a defiant Connie who conceals information about Bradley. Really, to protect his professional integrity, Doc should kill both women and he does try to. However, Doc has never yet hit a woman let alone murdered one.
  Unaware of the threat to his life Bradley takes a job in greyhound kennels, where he trains his dog for a big race. Everyone comes together the night of the Rosebowl final, and there are enemies out there that Doc doesn’t know about …
  PURSUIT is published on November 1st. For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, October 28, 2016

Publication: BOOKS TO DIE FOR, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke

I’m delighted to announce that BOOKS TO DIE FOR is now available in trade paperback. An award-winning collection of essays on the great crime / mystery novels, penned by the great contemporary crime / mystery authors, BTDF was described by the Washington Post as “As good a collection of short essays on crime fiction as one is likely to find.” To wit:
The world’s most beloved mystery writers celebrate their favourite mystery novels in this gorgeously wrought collection, featuring essays by Michael Connelly, Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin, and more. In the most ambitious anthology of its kind, the world’s leading mystery writers come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that reveal as much about the authors and their own work as they do about the books that they love, over a hundred authors from twenty countries have created a guide that will be indispensable for generations of readers and writers. From Agatha Christie to Lee Child, from Edgar Allan Poe to P. D. James, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal Lecter and Philip Marlowe to Lord Peter Wimsey, Books to Die For brings together the best of the mystery world for a feast of reading pleasure, a treasure trove for those new to the genre and for those who believe that there is nothing new left to discover. This is the one essential book for every reader who has ever finished a mystery novel and thought … I want more!
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Irish Crime Fiction: Whither the Traditional Whodunnit?

John Curran reviewed TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island) for the Irish Times last weekend, and concluded his review with a glowing recommendation: “[T]his collection can be confidently recommended to anyone who reads any type of crime fiction. They will find something to tease and tantalise their inner detective.”
  However, Curran, one of the world’s foremost scholars on Agatha Christie, pointed out a notable absence in a collection that covers, “with one exception, the entire crime spectrum.” To wit:
“This is a personal disappointment: despite the wide variety of story types here there is no traditional whodunnit. Not necessarily a Miss-Scarlett-in-the- library-with-the-spanner exercise, but is a variation thereon too much to ask?”
  Curran goes on to say that, “Admittedly, there is little or no tradition of this type of writing in this country.” This is true, but given the fact that Irish crime writing is still a relatively new literary phenomenon, the same could be said of virtually every other kind of story represented in the anthology.
  So: whither the traditional whodunnit in Irish crime fiction?
  It’s possible, of course, that some authors commissioned to contribute to the anthology who might have written a traditional mystery chose otherwise, given that the writers were offered the freedom of a blank slate, and some opted to write a different kind of story than they might usually do. It’s also true, I think, that some writers who have recently debuted – Jo Spain springs to mind, as does Andrea Carter – have written novels in the traditional whodunnit vein, and may have contributed that kind of story had they been commissioned.
  Overall, though, I think John Curran makes a very good point: the traditional whodunnit mystery has been largely notable by its absence over the last three decades of Irish crime writing. Is that because, as Fintan O’Toole once suggested, our historically small population and tightly-knit communities lent themselves to an almost immediate identification of a crime’s perpetrator, and thus whydunnits rather than whodunnits? Is it because Irish writers have largely, if not exclusively, tended to look to the American rather than British model of classic crime / mystery fiction? Or is it – a flight of fancy – a post-colonial hangover, and the ingrained, subconscious fear of being denounced as a spy or collaborator for fingering a perpetrator to the perfidious authorities?
  Naturally, it’s very difficult to offer any definitive answers. I’d imagine that very few writers sit down to write a book with the above questions in mind; every book is a personal response to a unique set of motives. Perhaps the traditional mystery story will belatedly come into vogue in Irish crime writing (I would argue that Cora Harrison’s novels already fall into this category), and perhaps Joanne Spain and Andrea Carter are already in the vanguard. If so, it’s a new direction to be welcomed, and one that will add another layer to the depth and breadth of Irish crime writing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News: the Irish Book Awards’ Crime Fiction Shortlist

White smoke billows, the bells ring out, trumpets parp, etc. – the shortlists for the Irish Book Awards have been announced, and the nominations for the Crime Fiction Award look a lot like this:
Crime Fiction Award
Distress Signals – Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus)
Little Bones – Sam Blake (Bonnier Zaffre)
Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
The Constant Soldier – William Ryan (Mantle)
The Drowning Child – Alex Barclay (HarperCollins)
The Trespasser – Tana French (Hachette Ireland)
  Those of you with long memories will remember that I suggested a shortlist about a month ago; of that list (of five books), there are two books on the actual shortlist – Tana French’s THE TRESPASSER and Liz Nugent’s LYING IN WAIT – but there’s no place for Alan Glynn’s PARADIME, Adrian McKinty’s RAIN DOGS or Stuart Neville’s SO SAY THE FALLEN. I did suggest that Sam Blake and Catherine Ryan Howard might well make the shortlist, although I wrote off William Ryan’s excellent THE CONSTANT SOLDIER on the basis that it’s not a crime novel. As has been the case in recent years, the IBA has made a virtue of shortlisting debut authors (two), and there are three previous winners on the list in Alex Barclay, Tana French and Liz Nugent. As I also suggested on my shortlist prediction, women writers have continued the trend of previous years by dominating yet again, with five of the six nominations. Hearty congratulations to all those nominated, and the very best of luck; meanwhile, commiserations to all of those who weren’t shortlisted: 2016 really was a very strong year for Irish crime fiction.
  Meanwhile, a special mention for Jane Casey, whose brilliantly chilling ‘Green, Amber, Red’ – from the TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS collection – was shortlisted in the Short Story of the Year category. To wit:
Short Story of the Year
Here We Are – Lucy Caldwell (Faber)
K-K-K – Lauren Foley (Ol Society – Australia)
The Visit – Orla McAlinden (Sowilo Press)
Green Amber Red – Jane Casey (New Island)
The Birds of June – John Connell (Granta Magazine)
What a River Remembers of its Course – Gerard Beirne (Numero Cinq Magazine)
  For the full list of shortlists and nominations, clickety-click here

Monday, October 24, 2016

Event: Anthony J. Quinn and William Ryan at No Alibis

Belfast’s dedicated crime fiction bookstore No Alibis will host ‘An Evening with Anthony Quinn and William Ryan’ on November 4th, which promises to be a fascinating event. To wit:
An Evening with Anthony Quinn and William Ryan

Friday, November 4 at 6:30 PM

No Alibis
83 Botanic Avenue, BT7 1, Belfast

Anthony Quinn is an Irish writer and journalist. His debut novel Disappeared was shortlisted for a Strand Literary Award in the United States. It was also listed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the top ten thrillers of 2012. After its UK publication in 2014, Disappeared was selected by the Daily Mail and the Times as one of the best novels of the year. It was also long-listed for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His short stories have twice been shortlisted for a Hennessy/New Irish Writing award. Anthony will be chatting about and launching his latest Celcius Daley novel, Trespass.

William Ryan is an Irish writer living in London. His first novel, THE HOLY THIEF, was shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, The CWA John Creasy New Blood Dagger and a Barry Award. His second novel, THE BLOODY MEADOW, was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year. William teaches on the Crime Writing Masters at City University in London. His latest novel The Constant Soldier has been described by AL Kennedy as “a nuanced, complex and gripping tale of guilt and love that captures the chaos at the end of World War Two”.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Event: The ‘Something Wicked’ Crime Fiction Festival at Malahide

Something Wicked, Ireland’s only standalone crime fiction festival, takes place this year from October 28th – 30th, featuring Alex Barclay, Liz Nugent, Arlene Hunt, René Gapert, Dave Rudden and Sam Blake. Quoth the blurb elves:
Murder comes to Malahide on the October bank holiday weekend in the form of the Something Wicked Crime Writing Festival, which runs from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th. Over the course of the three days, there will be something for all ages interested in crime, crime fiction and children’s books.

On Friday October 28th a panel of bestselling authors will discuss how they write about murder and violent crime. The panellists are Alex Barclay (Darkhouse, Blood Runs Cold), Sam Blake (Little Bones) and Liz Nugent (Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait) and will be hosted by Bert Wright (Administrator of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards). The event will be held at Malahide Lawn Tennis Club at 7:30pm. Tickets €12.50*/€15 (*early bird)

‘Malahide Murder Morning’ takes place on Saturday Oct 29th. This is a forensics and crime scene workshop where participants will witness the procedures and protocols following the discovery of a dead body. They will also learn how to write authentic crime fiction. The workshop will be led by Forensic Anthropologist René Gapert, Deputy State Pathologist Linda Mulligan and Garda Vanessa Stafford, with actor and screen writer Paddy C. Courtney acting as host. Award winning crime novelist Arlene Hunt (Vicious Circle, The Chosen, The Outsider) will complete the line-up, as she discusses how to incorporate the panellists’ information into a crime novel. The three-hour workshop takes place in the Malahide Parish Centre at 10am. Tickets €20*/€25 (*early bird)

Manor Books on Church Road will be the venue for ‘Killer Kids’ at 11am on Sunday October 30th. Bestselling author Dave Rudden (Knights of the Borrowed Dark) will host a workshop for children, who will learn the art of storytelling through the medium of crime fiction. Tickets €5.
  For all the details, clickety-click here.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Publication: IRON MAN: THE GAUNTLET by Eoin Colfer

I’ve spent the last few weeks harping on about the diversity of Irish crime fiction and the way in which Irish writers are happy to explore every nook and cranny of the genre, but it’s fair to say that Eoin Colfer – in this respect, as in most other things – is out there on his own. To date Eoin has penned one of the all-time best-selling YA series with his Artemis Fowl novels; written an instalment in Douglas Adams’ increasingly improbable Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy; a pre-teen private eye novel; books for young children; and comedy caper crime thrillers for adults.
  To cap it all – for now, at least; no doubt there’ll be even more maverick offerings from the Wexford man – Eoin publishes IRON MAN: THE GAUNTLET, in which the Marvel superhero comes to Ireland. To wit:
Tony Stark is known as many things: billionaire, inventor, Avenger, but mainly for being the invincible Iron Man! People expect strength and pizzazz from him at all times and he’s not about to let them down. But when he heads to an international eco-summit, he detects an anomaly off the coast of Ireland. Stark decides to investigate and that’s when the party really starts. Find out how he tackles both inner and outer demons in this all-action adventure from Eoin Colfer, the best-selling author of Artemis Fowl.
  So there you have it. For an excerpt from IRON MAN: THE GAUNTLET, clickety-click here

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


It’s been a busy couple of weeks since TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island) was launched, and the reaction – happily – has been pretty favourable to date.
  First off, hearty congratulations to Jane Casey, whose story ‘Green, Amber, Red’ has been longlisted for the Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. Sponsored by, the shortlist will be announced on October 25th, and if Jane’s chilling story isn’t on it then there’s something very rotten in the state of Denmark.
  Staying with, Hubert O’Hearn writes a very nice appreciation of the anthology, with the gist running thusly:
“Trouble is our Business is a uniformly excellent selection of twenty-four crime stories written by two dozen Irish writers. Not all of them are murder mysteries per se, although some are; not all are identifiably Irish in speech or setting, although again some are. Each one though polishes a different facet of the whole crime writing genre and just as with the wine sampler mentioned above, by the time you are finished reading this anthology you will certainly have discovered at the very least several writers you’ll list for future enjoyment.”
  Over at the Sunday Independent, Hilary White is also very positive about the book, describing it as “One of the essential literary fiction compendiums in Irish publishing this year.” I haven’t found a link to the review to date, but I’ll hoist it here when I do.
  Meanwhile, to coincide with the publication of TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, there’s been a few pieces published about Irish crime fiction in general. RTE’s new Culture website hosts an imaginatively titled piece called ‘Crime Spraoi’, the Irish Times hosts another on why ‘Irish crime writers are a law unto themselves’, and The interviews John Connolly, Louise Phillips and yours truly on why Irish crime writing is having ‘a killer moment right now’.
  Finally, if you’re in the mood to sample a couple of the stories from TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, the Irish Times carries Gene Kerrigan’s ‘Cold Cards’, while the RTE Culture website carries Sinead Crowley’s ‘Maximum Protection’. We do hope you enjoy …

Monday, October 17, 2016

Debut: THE GIRL BEHIND THE LENS by Tanya Farrelly

Tanya Farrelly’s debut, THE GIRL BEHIND THE LENS (Killer Reads), is a dark psychological thriller which will be published as an e-book on October 28th and in paperback on December 15th. Quoth the blurb elves:
When every word’s a lie …
  A picture is worth a thousand.
  Oliver Molloy never meant to hurt his wife. It was an accident, not his fault. A respected lawyer, he needs to make sure no-one finds out the truth. But there’s someone watching him, waiting for him to slip up.
  Photography student Joanna Lacey has always been close to her mother. But when Rachel Arnold turns up on her doorstep, Joanna’s world falls apart. The father she never knew has been found in the canal – a married man, now dead.
  Joanna and Oliver’s paths cross when they meet at the funeral. Convinced everyone she loves is lying to her, Joanna turns to him for help. But Oliver is the most dangerous liar of all.
  Can she uncover the truth before the past destroys them both?
  For Tanya Farrelly’s essay on ‘The Fruits of Perseverance’, clickety-click here

Friday, October 14, 2016

One to Watch: HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck

You’re likely to be hearing a lot about Haylen Beck over the next few months, the debut author of the psychological thriller HERE AND GONE (Harvill Secker), which will be published in April 2017. To wit:
Harvill Secker has acquired a “heart-stopping” standalone psychological thriller Here and Gone by Haylen Beck. The book, said to appeal to fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn, is set to be Vintage’s lead thriller next year and will publish in April 2017. It begins on a desolate road in Arizona where Audra is fleeing her abusive husband in the family car. Her children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. Desperate not to draw attention, Audra is petrified when she is pulled over by the local sheriff. What happens next is every parent’s worst nightmare: one minute her children were here, the next they were gone.
  So why the big fuss about Haylen Beck on a blog dedicated to Irish crime fiction? Well, as the picture above suggests, ‘Haylen Beck’ is none other than our own Stuart Neville. To wit:
The book is said to mark “a thrilling new direction” for Stuart Neville, for whom Haylen Beck is a pseudonym for novels inspired by his love of American crime writing. A second standalone Haylen Beck novel will be published in 2018.
  Nice work, sir. For all the details, including those of the sale of the film rights option, clickety-click here
  For more on Stuart Neville, clickety-click here

Thursday, October 13, 2016

One to Watch: THE CITY IN DARKNESS by Michael Russell

I don’t make a habit of blogging about books I’m still reading but with 100 pages or so still to go, Michael Russell’s THE CITY IN DARKNESS (Constable) is shaping up to be one of the best Irish crime fiction novels I’ve read all year. Quote the blurb elves:
Christmas 1939. In Europe the Phoney War hides carnage to come. In Ireland Detective Inspector Stefan Gillespie keeps tabs on Irishmen joining the British Forces. It’s unpleasant work, but when an IRA raid on a military arsenal sends Garda Special Branch in search of guns and explosives, Stefan is soon convinced his boss, Superintendent Terry Gregory, is working for the IRA.
  At home for Christmas, Stefan is abruptly called to Laragh, an isolated mountain town. A postman has disappeared, believed killed, and Laragh’s Guards are hiding something. Stefan is the nearest Special Branch detective, yet is he only there because Gregory wants him out of the way?
  Laragh is close to the lake where Stefan’s wife Maeve drowned years earlier, and when events expose a connection between the missing postman and her death, Stefan realises it wasn’t an accident, but murder. And it will be a difficult, dangerous journey where Stefan has to finally confront the ghosts of the past in the mountains of Wicklow, before he can return to Dublin and the truth of his boss’s duplicity.
  It’s a beautifully realised historical mystery, a blend of police procedural and spy novel, the story split between WWII Ireland and post-Civil War Spain. THE CITY IN DARKNESS was published on October 3rd; for more on Michael Russell, whose ‘City’ novels have previously been nominated for the CWA awards, clickety-click here

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Publication: THE DEVIL’S LUCK by T.R. Croke

Former Garda detective T.R. Croke publishes his debut novel, THE DEVIL’S LUCK, on November 7th. Quoth the blurb elves:
Detective Kate Bowen is accustomed to dealing with difficult men as she leads Dublin’s Surveillance and Intelligence Unit, and in her disastrous love life.
  But when her team discover ex-IRA stirrings and chatter of an alliance between a rogue group and a Paris-based militant Islamic cell, Kate unearths a tangled conspiracy hiding a vengeful Irish terrorist’s plot. Her investigation leads her into a warren of France’s disenfranchised Muslim youth, a bombing at the BBC proms, and sniping between intelligence agencies that threatens to derail the case.
  And Kate’s boyfriend, the seductive Charlie, isn’t exactly what he seems either. Not by a long shot.
  A police procedural with a gritty female sleuth pitted against an international alliance of the world’s worst terrorists, a pompous MI5 Section Chief seeking glory, with innocents being tortured and slaughtered along the bloodstrewn way.
  For more on T.R. Croke, clickety-click here

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Event: TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS at the Red Line Festival

An Evening With Ireland’s Finest Crime Writers

Join us for an evening of discussion on Irish crime writing with some of
Ireland’s best crime writers. Author, editor and journalist Declan Burke
will be leading the conversation with Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes and
Alex Barclay to discuss the ins and outs of the crime-writing process, the development of gripping plots and characters, as well as the past and present of Irish crime writing. Perfect for crime fiction fans and aspiring authors, it’s sure to be a wonderful evening! In association with New Island Books.

Date: Wednesday 12th October
Time: 8pm
Venue: Civic Theatre, Tallaght, Dublin 24
Price: €8/€6

Event: Declan Hughes and Alan Glynn on Raymond Chandler

I do hope the good burghers of Waterford know what they’ve let themselves in for by inviting Declan Hughes and Alan Glynn to take part in the Imagine Arts festival later this month – the deadly duo will be discussing Raymond Chandler (right), a topic which could easily take them well into Advent. To wit:
At the 15th annual Imagine Arts festival in Waterford this October, Irish crime writers Alan Glynn and Declan Hughes will read from their work and discuss the influence of Raymond Chandler on their writing and on contemporary crime fiction. This event will take place in partnership with the Irish Writers Centre as the Imagine Festival commemorates the memory of Raymond Chandler and his close connection with Waterford.
  This free event takes place at Waterford’s St Patrick’s Gateway Centre on October 23rd. For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, October 10, 2016

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Ruth Downie

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
Right now, Jasper Fforde’s THE EYRE AFFAIR. Especially the part where the bookworms go wild and splatter the dialogue with apostrophes.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Is it too weird to say Mark Watney from The Martian? Only if someone could promise it would all work out in the end, obviously. But he’s incredibly clever and resourceful, which would be a welcome change from real life.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
OK, I confess – I’m currently reading the first Poldark.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The moment when, after staring in horror at a huge plot hole, you find something earlier in the book that could be used to plug it.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
As I was saying just now … (it isn’t a movie and I’ve missed it, is it?)

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst – having to climb the mountain of self-doubt every day. Best – being able to do it in your slippers.

The pitch for your next book is …?
What if the friend you’re trying to rescue really did murder his wife?

Who are you reading right now?
Winston Graham. (You only asked that so I’d have to admit to Poldark again, didn’t you?) That’s the bedtime book. The current audiobook is Mark Billingham’s THE BURNING GIRL, and the bath book is a children’s story by SJA Turney and Dave Slaney called CROCODILE LEGION.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. That’s where it all begins.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Better After Editing.

Ruth Downie’s VITA BREVIS is published by Bloomsbury.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: THE DROWNING CHILD by Alex Barclay

Alex Barclay’s series heroine, FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce, generally operates out of Denver, but The Drowning Child (Harper) finds Ren relocated to the Oregon town of Tate, where 12-year-old Caleb Veir has gone missing. What begins as a standard investigation for the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment team becomes increasingly sinister, however, as Ren discovers that a number of children have died in mysterious circumstances in Tate, most of them by way of drowning. Complicating matters is Ren’s messy personal life, particularly the overwhelming guilt she feels for causing the deaths of her friends and colleagues in the ‘monumental horror’ of her previous case, Killing Ways (2015). Ren Bryce becomes a more compelling character with each successive novel (this is her sixth outing), hardboiled and professional on the outside but – courtesy of Ren’s unfiltered internal monologue – crippled with self-doubt and loathing on the inside. She’s also irreverent, insolent and endearingly self-deprecating, such as when she compares herself to the iconic Clarice Starling: “No screaming lambs, but lots of fucking voices.” Central to the appeal of The Drowning Child, however, is Barclay’s depiction of small-town America, a sharply observed valley of squinting windows that turns a blind eye to the perverse sickness at its very heart. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times in the crime fiction review column. Other titles reviewed are the new books from Carl Hiaasen, Sophie Hannah, Peter Spiegelman and Thomas Rydahl.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Reviews: ‘Queens of Irish Crime Writing’

The inimitable Myles McWeeney – long a friend of Irish crime writing – reviews three current releases under the title of ‘Queens of Irish Crime Writing’ in the Irish Independent. To wit:
Multi-award-winning writers like Tana French, Alex Barclay and relative newcomer Jo Spain are standing toe-to-toe and slugging it out for bestselling charts dominance with their well-established British counterparts like Val McDermid and Mo Hayder, and US contemporaries Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen.
  But these three high-flying Irish women writers are no flash in the pan. They are part of a highly impressive cohort of Irish female mystery writers who have beaten a path to the top in the past decade or so, including highly regarded bestselling authors like Jane Casey, Arlene Hunt, Niamh O'Connor, Ava McCarthy, Sinead Crowley and 50pc of Karen Perry - (Perry is actually two people, Karen Gillece and Peter Perry). The reason French, Barclay and Spain have been chosen here to represent their sisters in crime is that all three, coincidentally, have just had their latest novels published within days of each other this month.
  For the full review, clickety-click here

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Event: Steve Cavanagh to Diary-Blog Next Novel

Hats off to Steve Cavanagh (right), the author of the bestselling titles THE DEFENCE and THE PLEA, who has announced that he will be blogging the writing of his next novel, promising ‘an honest diary’ of his ups and downs – mostly ups, we hope. He’s a better and braver man than yours truly, and I wish him a fair wind and Godspeed. Quoth Steve:
“The blog will serve as a sort of diary for me. It will be honest. There will be some weeks where the word count will be desperately low, and I’ll feel bad about writing those posts. Maybe the thought of telling the world how little progress I’ve made might give me a boost – you never know. There will also be weeks where the word count recorded will be reasonably high. Usually that means I’ll spend quite a bit more time on those sections when I come to do my second draft.
“I’m looking forward to it. This is the kind of blog that I wanted to read when I was an unpublished writer, hacking my way through my first book. The aim is to lay the process bare and debunk some of the writing myths that seem to have cropped up. I’ll also post the odd section from the book as a work in progress.”
  To follow Steve’s blogging adventures, clickety-click here.
  For a review of THE DEFENCE, clickety-click here.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Help Save Sligo Library

Dear Reader –
  I would be very grateful indeed if you could lend your support to the campaign to save Sligo libraries. The campaign is at a critical point (see below), and every signature on the petition to save Sligo libraries could be vital. If you have 15 seconds to spare today, please click on this link and sign the petition.
  I’m emotionally attached to Sligo Library (right), as you might imagine – some of my earliest and fondest memories are bound up in this beautiful building, which I haunted as a child (one of my proudest achievements is of ‘graduating’ from the Junior to the Senior Library a year early, aged 11). But I know I don’t have to stress the importance of every library, to every child – to my mind, the library, along with the hospital, is a crucial pillar of any community.
  From the Irish Times:
The battle to save Sligo’s three libraries will gather momentum on Monday morning when county councillors unanimously back a Section 140 motion forcing the chief executive to keep them open … Under the Local Government Act 2001, councillors can pass a section 140 motion. Under this clause of the Local Government Act, elected representatives can compel the county council chief executive to carry out their wishes.
  I thank you in advance for your help in this matter; and, if the spirit so moves you, it would be wonderful if you could click on one of the buttons below to spread the word.

UPDATE: Delighted to hear that, as a result of a meeting held this morning, Sligo Library Services have secured the extra staff required to keep the libraries open. Thanks a million to everyone who took the time to get involved.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Event: ECHOLAND by Joe Joyce Chosen as Dublin’s ‘One City, One Book’ for 2017

Hearty congratulations to Joe Joyce, whose ECHOLAND (2013) has been chosen as Dublin’s ‘One City, One Book’ for 2017. Set during the WWII years of Ireland’s ‘Emergency’, ECHOLAND is a spy thriller featuring young intelligence officer Paul Duggan, and the first in a series that includes ECHOBEAT (2014) and ECHOWAVE (2015). Quoth Joe:
“I’m delighted and honoured that ECHOLAND will be Dublin’s One City, One Book for 2017. The city is an integral part of the book, not just the backdrop to a spy story. As I was writing it, I was very conscious of the hardships and great dangers of the Emergency period, faced — as always by Dubliners — with resilience and wit.”
  For a review of ECHOLAND, clickety-click here.
  For an interview with Joe Joyce, clickety-click here.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: PAPER CUTS by Colin Bateman

Colin Bateman’s Divorcing Jack (1994) is one of the most influential books in Irish crime fiction, and Bateman has written over 30 novels since, all of them crime or mysteries to varying degrees. Paper Cuts (Head of Zeus), his first non-crime novel, opens with Guardian journalist Rob Cullen arriving back in Bangor to attend the funeral of his old mentor, Billy Maxwell, the former editor of the (fictional) Bangor Express. One rip-roaring wake later, Rob finds himself working as temporary editor of the Express, with a brief to modernise, streamline and rejuvenate the ailing paper.
  Told in eight chapters, each corresponding to a week’s edition of the Express (and each representing a crisis / opportunity for the Express and its staff), Paper Cuts is a charming account of the qualified joys of local journalism. Bateman, who left school aged 16 to take up a position as cub reporter with the County Down Spectator, appears to share Rob Cullen’s reluctant appreciation of local newspapers. They might be, as Rob suggests, ‘like community goldfish bowls. The same stories kept coming around, year after year after decade,’ but Rob also believes that the Express has a duty of care to its readership: ‘It serves the community, it protects the community, it tells you who the bad guys are and stops them getting away with it.’
  If Rob believes he has taken on a noble task, however, his idealism is rather undercut when Alix, the main reporter amidst the demoralised staff, prosaically describes the Express as ‘a dysfunctional family. A dysfunctional, highly unpopular and poverty-stricken family.’
  The clash between the staff’s cynical pragmatism and Rob’s principled theories of journalism provides the story with its narrative tension, as Rob learns to accept his own limitations along with those of his co-workers and his new home. Bangor is a sleepy, peaceful seaside town – ‘One of those towns that had escaped the worst and even the least of the Troubles – three bombs in thirty years, a handful of shootings; hell, there were towns in Surrey that had had it worse, nearly.’ – but fans of Bateman’s crime novels shouldn’t fret. Given the nature of local reporting, there are enough crime-based stories in Paper Cuts to fuel a modest crime fiction career, as Rob and his team find themselves investigating ex-paramilitaries, sex-traffickers, bodies dumped in fly-tipping sites, mysterious arsons, the exploitation of refugees, and even a siege when an armed robber botches his heist of the local post office.
  The story is peppered with Bateman’s blackly comic asides, as when Alix reflects on how boring her job is. ‘Of course,’ she concludes, ‘there hadn’t been a lot of decapitated heads during her time on the Express. That was wishful thinking.’ There’s a sly humour, too, in the way the apparently explosive crime stories the reporters investigate rarely turn out to be what they appear at first glance; Bateman takes us behind the lurid headlines to explore the human impact of local journalism (and, in the process, turn the traditional narrative of crime fiction on its head), as villains turn out to be heroes, and victims are revealed to be nowhere as powerless as they might seem.
  Paper Cuts may be the first non-crime novel Bateman has written, but it’s the latest example of a writer who has been taking artistic gambles for some time now – apart from his TV crime writing, Bateman has written an opera about King Billy, a musical about The Undertones, and the script to the Irish language drama Scúp, which was set in a newsroom and from which Paper Cuts emerged (he has also written the script for The Journey, a film about the relationship between Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, which is due for release later this year).
  Long one of Ireland’s most prolific and influential authors, Paper Cuts is further confirmation that Colin Bateman is becoming one of our most ambitious writers too. Deliciously readable, timely in its themes and surprisingly optimistic about the future of local journalism, it deserves to be ranked among his most polished offerings. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Event: John Connolly Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS at No Alibis

It’s hard to believe that it’s 10 years since John Connolly published THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, but if the good folk at No Alibis are hosting a 10th Anniversary bash, it must be true. The details:
John Connolly
With Special Guest Anne M. Anderson
Tuesday 11th October 2016 at 7:00 PM
Tickets: FREE

No Alibis Bookstore are very pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch of the Tenth Anniversary Edition of John Connolly’s THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS on Tuesday 11th October at 7:00PM. Tickets for this event are very limited, and can be reserved here.

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of John Connolly’s THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, British publisher Hodder & Stoughton are producing a special illustrated hardcover edition of this much-loved book, including the beautiful woodcut illustrations [such as the example below] created by local artist Anne M. Anderson for No Alibis’ own 2007 Limited Edition of the book.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: MINDS OF WINTER by Ed O’Loughlin

“Everything is very plain and modern now,” a dying man tells the author Jack London roughly halfway through Minds of Winter (riverrun), warning the writer against the gothic, supernatural excesses of the yarn he is spinning in a hospital ward. The reader may well laugh out loud; Ed O’Loughlin’s fourth novel is an uncompromising throwback to a time when story was king, a spellbinding tale of adventures and explorers, spies and outlaws, of derring-do, self-sacrifice and impossible feats of endurance.
  The story opens with a Prologue provided by a feature published by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian in 2009, in which Kennedy writes about the mystery of how a ‘chronometer which was supposed to have sunk with a ship on the Franklin North-West Passage expedition in 1845 … somehow ended up back in London as a carriage clock.’ The novel then moves forward to the present day, introducing Fay and Nelson, who are 120 miles inside the Canadian Arctic Circle. Strangers to one another, both are searching – although they don’t know it yet – for the elusive chronometer.
  Another chapter, another leap through time and space: we find ourselves in Van Diemen’s Land in 1841, as Sir John Franklin prepares to host a ball on board his ship The Erebus, the ship fated to be lost four years later in the vain search for the North-West Passage. And on the novel goes, gambolling forward and back in time, a Russian doll of a novel in which stories fold into one another, leading on deeper into the mystery via Roald Amundsen’s search for the South Pole, Abwehr spies during WWII and Jack London’s adventures as a spy on the Korea-Manchuria border, all of it underpinned by O’Loughlin’s musings on the direction man might take once the tools of discovery – maps, compasses, chronometers – have fulfilled their promise and charted all there is to be known. “A globe was a globe and you could not fall off it,” observes Morgan, a cartographer. “But a map was a map, a metaphor, full of judgements and choices and victories and regrets; a map was built on hacks and heuristics and mistakes and lies, cracks through which you might, just maybe, someday slip away.”
  It’s a theme O’Loughlin returns to frequently, such as when Amundsen, on the island of Madeira and undecided as to whether to strike out for the North or South Pole, pauses before making his final decision: “He could stay here forever, dissolved in this air. But some tiny flaw in the fabric of the universe, some original sin in space and time, determined that he was doomed to exist, to be one thing or another.”
  It’s a beautifully written novel that blends a kind of pragmatic poetry with a lyrical interpretation of science – the Greenwich observatory, for example, is “a shrine … where time was substantiated from the sky and consecrated in chronometers, then served to the ships that passed down the reach.” O’Loughlin, whose debut novel Not Untrue & Not Unkind was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2009, can knock out a well-turned line with the best of them, even when he is sabotaging his characters’ philosophical musings with a mischievous sense of humour. It’s hard to believe, for example, that the metaphor of the search for the missing chronometer, which relentlessly measures the fictional concept of linear time, is anything more than an old-fashioned McGuffin given the swirling ebb-and-flow nature of the narrative.
  That said, there’s no doubt that Minds of Winter is a serious novel on an important theme. What makes it such an absorbing read is that O’Loughlin doesn’t believe that ‘serious’ and ‘entertaining’ are mutually exclusive concepts. In the sheer brio of its storytelling, it brings to mind Salman Rushdie’s The Enchantress of Florence or David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas – profound, yes, but terrific fun too. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Preview: The Irish Crime Novel of the Year

It’s that time of the year again – or will be, in about a month’s time – when the shortlists for the Irish Book of the Year arrive to a backing track of whoops of delight, wails of anguish and groans of frustration. It’s been – and please stop me if you’ve heard this before – another bumper year for Irish crime fiction, with over 40 titles providing the basis for – potentially – one of the strongest shortlists to date.
  Below, I offer a potential shortlist, albeit with some caveats: 1. John Connolly’s books never appear on the IBA Crime Novel shortlist. 2. William Ryan’s excellent THE CONSTANT SOLIDER isn’t a crime novel. 3. As always, I haven’t read all the Irish crime titles published this year. 4. Some titles – Graham Norton’s HOLDING, Neil Jordan’s THE DROWNED DETECTIVE and Emma Donoghue’s THE WONDER, for example – might be considered crime fiction titles; then again, they might not. 5. In recent years, the good folks at the IBA have made a virtue of shortlisting debut authors.
  Those caveats out of the way, my shortlist for Irish Crime Novel of the Year – based on the crudely simple basis of the best Irish crime titles I’ve read this year – would look a lot like this:
LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent
PARADIME by Alan Glynn
SO SAY THE FALLEN by Stuart Neville
RAIN DOGS by Adrian McKinty
  No debutants on my list, then (Sam Blake, Vanessa Ronan, Annemarie Neary and Catherine Ryan Howard are contenders); Adrian McKinty is a bit of a wild card, given that his (regular) award-winning tends to take place on the other side of the world rather than closer to home; and I’m suggesting three men, whereas the last few years have seen the award dominated by women writers. So I wouldn’t be rushing off to the bookies with your hard-earned cash just yet …
  Anyway, the actual shortlist for the Irish Crime Novel of the Year will be published on October 25th. I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Event: New Wave of Women in Irish Crime Fiction at the Los Gatos Festival

Running from October 6th to 9th, the Los Gatos Festival is a California-set festival ‘in the tradition of Ireland’s famous Writers’ Week in Listowel’. On October 8th, Louise Phillips, Niamh O’Connor and Claire McGowan will take part in a panel discussion on the New Wave of Women in Irish Crime Fiction, moderated by Margie O’Driscoll. To wit:
More and more young Irish women are joining the ranks of established crime fiction greats. What’s that all about? Award-winning Irish crime writers Louise Phillips and Niamh O’Connor [joined by Claire McGowan] will read from their contributions to the new anthology of Irish crime writing, TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island Press, September 2016). The stories in the collection have a distinctive Irish flavour but show Irish crime writing in the 21st century is now playing in international leagues.
For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: SO SAY THE FALLEN by Stuart Neville

A contemporary thriller set in Northern Ireland, SO SAY THE FALLEN (published this week in the US by Soho Crime) opens with Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan arriving at the home of Roberta Garrick to investigate the apparent suicide of her husband, Harry. The evidence suggests that Harry Garrick, a man of very strong religious faith despite losing his legs in a horrific traffic accident some months previously, has taken his own life with an overdose of morphine granules consumed in his nightly pot of yoghurt. Also present is the Reverend Peter McKay, a regular visitor to the Garrick home who has been ministering to Harry. Flanagan is prepared to accept the Forensic Medical Officer’s verdict of suicide, although one tiny detail irritates her – Harry Garrick apparently arranged photographs of his wife and daughter on his bedside table before committing suicide, but from where he would have lain in the bed, he would have been unable to see the photographs properly. Flanagan’s instinct tells her that something is not quite right in the Garrick home, but is her instinct sufficient to persuade her superiors that an investigation is required?
  Serena Flanagan appeared as a supporting character in THE FINAL SILENCE (2014), and became the main character in THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND (2015). A tough but sensitive policewoman, one of Serena’s strengths in THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND was her ability to empathise with both the victims of crime and the reasons why the perpetrators grew up to become violent criminals.
  In her private life, Serena is married to Alistair, and has two children, Ruth and Eli; the demands of her job often cause friction at home, with Alistair particularly worried that the violence in Serena’s professional life will find its way into their home. This fear becomes a reality when their home is invaded near the end of THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND, and Alistair is stabbed whilst the children are downstairs.
  As SO SAY THE FALLEN opens, Serena is struggling with another issue: five years previously, she shot dead a gunman who was pointing a gun at her; but the recent death of the gunman’s getaway driver, who survived a crash and lay in a coma for those five years, has hit her hard. Currently in therapy, Serena also finds that her home life is falling apart: Alistair suffers nightly nightmares as he relives his stabbing, and he wants her to step back from the front-line of policing to take a position in administration. Emotionally estranged from her husband, and with her children taking his part due to her irregular hours and absences from the home, Serena is suffering for the sake of her job she defines herself by:
Without the job, Flanagan thought, what do I have left?
Her family should have been the answer. But even that seemed to be slipping beyond her reach.
  While Flanagan is the main character, much of the story is told through the eyes of the Reverend Peter McKay, a fascinatingly charismatic but vulnerable man. When we first meet him, McKay is comforting the newly widowed Roberta Garrick, but immediately we understand that McKay’s interest in Roberta is rather more than pastoral:
Reverend Peter McKay followed [Roberta], feeling as if she dragged him by a piece of string. Conflicting desires battled within him: the desire for her body, the fear of the room beyond, the need to run. But he walked on regardless, as much by Roberta’s volition as by his own.
  Is it possible that this mild-mannered man of the cloth, a sensitive and thoughtful man – he is, we learn, still mourning the death of his wife a decade previously – colluded to either induce Harry Garrick to take his own life, or else helped to murder him? What we do know is that his wife’s death caused McKay to begin to lose his faith in God:
McKay seldom thought of God anymore, unless he was writing a sermon or taking a service. Reverend Peter McKay had ceased to believe in God some months ago. Everything since had been play-acting, as much out of pity for the parishioners as desire to keep his job.
No God. No sin. No heaven. No hell.
Reverend Peter McKay knew these things as certainly as he knew his own name.
  Faith, or its absence, is a major theme of SO SAY THE FALLEN. The Reverend McKay no longer believes in God, and serves his parishioners out of ‘pity’ for their own delusional faith in God. We quickly discover that Serena Flanagan is also a woman who lacks a faith in God:
Flanagan pictured them both, kneeling, eyes closed, mouths moving, talking to nothing but air. Stop it, she told herself. They need their belief now. Don’t belittle it.
  However, the theme isn’t simply devoted to exposing the consequences of an absence of faith and other religiously-inspired values. Later in the story, giving the sermon at Harry Garrick’s funeral, Reverend McKay talks about Harry’s faith:
‘Because without faith, what do we have left?’
McKay knew the answer to that question. Nothing. Without faith, we have nothing.
  Reverend McKay’s complicated attitude towards faith and its absence is mirrored in Flanagan’s own complicated attitude towards faith. Although she professes not to believe in God, Flanagan does pray:
If Flanagan did not believe, then why did she pray so often? She rationalised it as a form of self-talk, an internal therapy session. Wasn’t that it? Or were those Sunday mornings spent in [churches] so rooted in the bones of her that deep down she believed this nonsense, even if her higher mind disagreed?
  At one point, when Reverend McKay is contemplating taking his own life by drowning himself at a remote beach, he is offered solace by another minister:
‘Chaos or faith,’ she said. ‘It’s one or the other. I know which I prefer.’
‘It’s not a matter of preference,’ McKay said […] ‘It’s a matter of reality. What’s real and what’s just a story to cling to.’
  Flanagan empathises with Peter McKay’s plight; they both have much in common, including their absence of faith. Both of them also define themselves according to their professions, or vocations. At Harry Garrick’s funeral, when the Reverend McKay asks ‘Without faith, what do we have left?’, Serena finds herself agonising over her family:
Without the job, Flanagan thought, what do I have left? […]
Oh God, what do I have left?
I am my job. I am my children. What am I without them?
  Serena and McKay talk about the difficulty of separating their personal lives from their professional lives, and the extent to which their jobs aren’t simply jobs, but vocations which require sacrifice. McKay tells Serena:
‘Then you are your job, your job is you. Same for me.’
‘And I am my family. I need them, even if they don’t need me.’
His fingers tightened on her wrist, a small pressure. ‘Then the answer lies somewhere between the two. It’s like two sides of an arch. One can’t stand without the other.’
  Significantly, Serena explains to her family why her job is so important – not just to her, but because it’s an important job, and people depend on her to see justice done. In this, and much else, Serena Flanagan is emblematic of the strong female protagonists who have come to define crime and mystery fiction over the last decade or so, most notably in Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2008), Gillian Flynn’s GONE GIRL (2012) and Paula Hawkins’ THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2015).
  Not all the women characters are positive role models, however. Roberta Garrick is a classic femme fatale, a throwback to the deliciously dark days of noir:
She still wore her silk dressing gown over her nightdress, red hair spilling across her shoulders. A good-looking woman, mid-thirties. If not beautiful, then at least the kind to make men look twice. The kind teenage boys whispered to each other about, tinder for their adolescent fires.
  Roberta is duplicitous, manipulative, physically aggressive and more than willing to use sex in order to achieve her aims. She is a predator, a sociopath who preys on ‘weak’ men – men ‘weakened’ by their lust for her – in order to gain financial independence. Ultimately we get Roberta’s philosophy on life, a sociopathic amorality that is the purest essence of noir’s classic femme fatales: “Life becomes so much easier when you let go of right and wrong.”
  The clash between Roberta’s amorality and Flanagan and McKay’s yearning for certainty provides a fascinating subtext to a novel that is a richly nuanced exploration of faith and vocation. SO SAY THE FALLEN is Stuart Neville’s seventh novel, and he becomes a more sophisticated, intriguing and subtly provocative author with each passing book. ~ Declan Burke

  SO SAY THE FALLEN is published by Soho Crime.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Publication: THE TRESPASSER by Tana French

It’s fair to say that Tana French’s THE TRESPASSER (Hodder & Stoughton) is one of the most hotly anticipated crime fiction releases of 2016, and having read it I think it’s also fair to say that her legions of fans won’t be disappointed with its very smart blend of police procedural and domestic noir. Quoth the blurb elves:
Antoinette Conway, the tough, abrasive detective from THE SECRET PLACE, is still on the Murder squad, but only just. She’s partnered up with Stephen Moran now, and that’s going well - but the rest of her working life isn’t. Antoinette doesn’t play well with others, and there’s a vicious running campaign in the squad to get rid of her. She and Stephen pull a case that at first looks like a slam-dunk lovers’ tiff. All she and her partner have to do is track down Lover Boy and bring him in. Then it’ll be back to business as usual, watching from a distance as the real detectives go up against the psychopaths. Except when Antoinette takes a good look at the victim’s face, she realises she’s seen her somewhere before. And suddenly the conviction that there’s a different answer takes her breath away.
  THE TRESPASSER is published on September 22nd. For a review of THE SECRET PLACE, clickety-click here

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Launch: TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, ed. Declan Burke

I’m very much looking forward to the launch of TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (see details above) – if you’re in Dublin on Wednesday 21st, please do drop by the Gutter Bookshop, we’d love to see you there. Here’s the all-important blurbio:
Selected and edited by award-winning crime writer Declan Burke, TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS showcases the absolute best in Irish crime writing today. From originators like Patrick McGinley and Ruth Dudley Edwards to global crime megastars like John Connolly and Eoin Colfer, there can be no doubt as to the serious quality of Irish crime writing in the twenty-first century. An absolute must-have for crime lovers! Featuring stories by: Patrick McGinley, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Colin Bateman, Eoin McNamee, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, Julie Parsons, John Connolly, Alan Glynn, Adrian McKinty, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay, Gene Kerrigan, Eoin Colfer, Declan Hughes, Cora Harrison, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Jane Casey, Niamh O Connor, William Ryan, Louise Phillips, Sinead Crowley, and Liz Nugent.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

One to Watch: TRESPASS by Anthony J. Quinn

TRESPASS (Head of Zeus) is the fourth offering in Anthony J. Quinn’s increasingly impressive series featuring Northern Ireland police detective Celcius Daly. Quoth the blurb elves:
Celcius Daly is investigating the abduction of a boy by a group of travellers already under investigation for smuggling and organised crime. As he digs into the child’s background, he discovers a family secret linked to an unsolved crime during the Troubles – the disappearance of a young woman and her baby. Daly’s investigation shakes loose some harrowing truths about the past treatment of travellers and the present day lawlessness of Northern Ireland’s border country.
  Undergoing an internal investigation over his handling of the search for IRA spy Daniel Hegarty, Daly realises that he has much in common with the beleaguered and outcast travellers and soon finds himself entangled in a vigilante mission, discovering just how far a group of outsiders will go to find their own justice.
  Trespass will be published on November 3rd. For a review of Anthony Quinn’s DISAPPEARED, clickety-click here …

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent’s second novel, Lying in Wait (Penguin Ireland), opens with a shockingly provocative line: ‘My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it.’ The speaker is the reclusive Lydia Fitzsimons; her husband, Andrew, is a respected Dublin judge. We quickly learn that Lydia, unable to have more children after the birth of her son Laurence, persuaded a reluctant Andrew to father a child with Annie. When Annie – a troubled teenager with addiction issues – first lies to Andrew about being pregnant, and then tries to blackmail him, the tragedy of the novel’s first line ensues.
  It’s an intriguing set-up, but Nugent, who employed multiple narrative voices in her award-winning debut Unravelling Oliver, again deploys conflicting perspectives in Lying in Wait. We hear from Laurence Fitzsimons, an overweight and bullied teen who becomes obsessed with the missing Annie Doyle, particularly when he realises that his father is lying about his whereabouts on the night Annie Doyle disappeared. Meanwhile, Karen Doyle, Annie’s younger sister, refuses to believe that Annie would simply run away. Determined though she is to get to the truth of Annie’s disappearance, there is very little Karen can do when the Garda detectives investigating the case wash their hands of the trouble-making Annie.
  The interwoven strands of Lydia, Laurence and Karen’s stories set all three on a collision course in this absorbing psychological thriller. Set in the 1980s, it’s more of a ‘whydunnit’ than a ‘whodunnit’, as Nugent, having initially established Lydia Fitzsimons as a pitiless sociopath, reveals the reasons why Lydia became a controlling, lethal monster. Unravelling Oliver was a brave novel in the way it gradually allowed for an understanding of why and how Oliver became a vicious domestic abuser. Similarly, Lying in Wait delves deep into the childhood of Lydia Fitzsimons to explore the extent to which she is a victim of circumstance, and how her young mind was poisoned by events over which she had no control.
  Indeed, one of the most striking ‘characters’ in the novel isn’t a person but Avalon, the stately mansion in south Co. Dublin that formed such an integral part of Lydia’s childhood, a house with much in common with Daphne du Maurier’s Manderley from the novel Rebecca. A brooding presence at the heart of the story, Avalon represents an idealised childhood for Lydia, but it also hides secrets of Lydia at her worst, a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of her malevolent personality that in turn exerts a malign gravity on Lydia’s motivations.
  Throughout the novel Lydia presides over her ramshackle, gloomy palace like some deranged wicked queen from an old fairytale, the gothic iconography emphasising the ever-darker twists of the tale as she plots and schemes against what appears to be an inevitable meeting of minds between her son Laurence and Annie Doyle’s sister Karen. Lying in Wait may be set in the 1980s, but it’s a story that feels rooted in a form hundreds of years old, and has all the elements of a precautionary fable found in the classic folktales of Charles Perrault et al.
  Liz Nugent’s winning of the Best Crime category at the Irish Book Awards for her debut novel was an impressive achievement, but Lying in Wait is an even more assured affair than Unravelling Oliver. A complex plot rich in subtext allows Nugent to explore female sexuality, the roots of childhood psychosis, and the unacknowledged but very real layers of class distinction in Ireland, all of it wrapped up in an emotionally nuanced tale of betrayal, murder and unbearable loss. It’s a novel that propels Liz Nugent to the first rank of Irish crime writing; where she goes from here will take us all on a very interesting journey. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.