“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
American author Cara Black sets her Aimée Leduc series of novels in Paris, where the effortlessly chic Aimée works as a private investigator. Murder Below Montparnasse (Soho Crime, €27.50) is her 13th outing, which opens with Aimée commissioned by Yuri, a ‘stubborn old Cossack’ Russian émigré, to protect a long-lost Modigliani. It sounds like a straightforward job, but when Aimée discovers Yuri murdered – apparently tortured to death – and the painting gone, she discovers that the art world can be a lethal place to do business. What follows is a breathless tale of double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses as the private eye finds herself at the heart of a century-old plot that incorporates not only the great painters of the avant-garde but also one Vladimir Illyich Lenin. Black sketches in the Montparnasse backdrop with considerable style, contrasting its contemporary political turmoil with its bohemian origins in the early part of the 20th century, and weaves a host of sub-plots through the main story, including one involving the heroine’s long-absent mother, who may or may not be a hired killer for the CIA. It all makes for an exhilarating read, although the sheer volume of intricately plotted twists, turns and revelations that send Aimée ricocheting through the Parisian streets and make Murder Below Montparnasse the proverbial page-turner might well frustrate a more patient reader.
This column first appeared in the Irish Times.
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
I reviewed IN THE ROSARY GARDEN a few months ago in the Irish Times, with the gist running a lot like this:
Set in Ireland in 1984, Nicola White’s IN THE ROSARY GARDEN (Cargo Publishing) centres on the discovery of a dead infant in the grounds of a convent. Given the place and particularly the time, Detective Vincent Swan has to proceed carefully as he investigates how the child was killed, and why it was left to be discovered in a convent, and matters are further complicated by the fact that this is not the first time that schoolgirl Ali Hogan has discovered a dead baby. White’s debut – the novel won the Dundee International Book Prize late last year – has haunting echoes of recent Irish history, and White has no compunction in pointing the finger at the patriarchal society that plays a significant part in the tragedies detailed here. The novel is by no means a polemic, however. An unusual but absorbingly twisting narrative is hugely enhanced by White’s creation of Detective Swan, a complex man whose own frustrated paternal instincts ensure that a highly politicised case becomes very personal indeed. ~ Declan BurkeFor the full shortlist, clickety-click here …
Monday, July 28, 2014
BITTER REMEDY (Bloomsbury), the fifth in the increasingly enthralling series featuring the Rome-based police detective Commissario Alec Blume. To wit:
There’s no cure for murder.For more on Conor Fitzgerald’s novels, clickety-click here and here …
Commissario Alec Blume, on health leave and fleeing his partner Caterina, has retreated from Rome to central Italy. At the Villa Romanelli he enrolls on a natural remedies course conducted by a young woman named Silvana.
But far from recuperating or resolving his differences with Caterina, a feverish Blume becomes isolated and sluggish with sickness. Increasingly ill-at-ease in the stifling environment, the dark history of the crumbling villa and its once-magnificent gardens draws him in. And when a Romanian girl who works for Silvana’s ambiguous fiancé Niki asks for his help, Blume finds himself dragged into the shadowy case of a missing girl, and the secret horrors of the garden’s malign beauty.