“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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: THE WING-ORDERLY’S TALES by Carlo Gébler

Carlo Gébler’s The Wing-Orderly’s Tales (New Island), set in the fictional Loanend Prison in Belfast, is comprised of a series of anecdotes about Harold ‘Chalky’ Chalkman’s fellow prisoners, with Chalky’s position as orderly and go-between making him a confidante of both prisoners and prison guards. The narrative form is unusual, lying somewhere between a short story collection and a novel (the stories are closely linked but self-contained), as Gébler details the sad, quirky, blackly funny and tragic events that befall a host of characters, all of them known by their prison nicknames (‘Eskimo’, ‘Smurf’, ‘Sweet Gene’, ‘Magic’). In the past Carlo Gébler was a creative writing tutor at the Maze and writer-in-residence in Maghaberry, and he invests these stories with a gripping verisimilitude, not least when outlining the perverse unofficial rules that apply in prison – one character, for example, is brutally punished for hating the paramilitaries who killed his mother. It’s a slim but powerful book that subtly explores the early causes and life-long consequences of criminality, its underlying theme summed up in the advice the recidivist Chalky is offered – “It may be a jail, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like it’s one.” – but ultimately rejects. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times as part of April’s crime fiction column. Other titles reviewed are: MAESTRA by LS Hilton, THE TRAP by Melanie Raabe, BLOOD WILL OUT by Walter Kirn and SIX FOUR by Hideo Yokoyama.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Coming Soon: A SHOCKING ASSASSINATION by Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison is better known for her Mara mystery novels about a Brehon judge in the 15th century, but A SHOCKING ASSASSINATION (Severn House) is the second in a historical crime series featuring Reverend Mother Aquinas (the first, A SHAMEFUL MURDER, was published last year). To wit:
Reverend Mother Aquinas is asked to prove a young man’s innocence in the second of this atmospheric new Irish historical mystery series.
  Ireland. 1924. Reverend Mother Aquinas is buying buttered eggs in the Cork city market at the very moment when the city engineer, James Doyle, is assassinated. Although no one saw the actual killing, a young reporter named Sam O’Mahoney is found standing close to the body, a pistol in his hand, and is arrested and charged. Following a desperate appeal from Sam’s mother, convinced of her son’s innocence, the Reverend Mother investigates - and, in this turbulent, war-torn city, uncovers several other key suspects. Could there be a Republican connection? Was James Doyle’s death linked to his corrupt practices in the rebuilding of the city, burned down more than a year ago by the Black and Tans? Cork is a city divided by wealth and by politics: this murder seems to have links to both.
  A SHOCKING ASSASSINATION will be the 51st – yes, that’s 51st – novel published by the prolific Cora Harrison when it arrives on May 31st.