“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.

Monday, July 24, 2017

One to Watch: THE WELL OF ICE by Andrea Carter

THE WELL OF ICE is the third in Andrea Carter’s Donegal-set series featuring her amateur sleuth solicitor Ben O’Keeffe, following on from DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH and TREACHEROUS STRAND. Quoth the blurb elves:
December in Glendara, Inishowen, and solicitor Benedicta ‘Ben’ O’Keeffe is working flat-out before the holidays; the one bright spot on her horizon is spending her first Christmas with Sergeant Tom Molloy.
  But on a trip to Dublin to visit her parents, she runs into Luke Kirby - the man who killed her sister - freshly released from jail. He appears remorseful, conciliatory even, but as she walks away, he whispers something that chills her to the bone.
  Back in Glendara, there is chaos. The Oak pub has burned down and Carole Kearney, the Oak’s barmaid, has gone missing. And then on Christmas morning, while walking up Sliabh Sneacht, Ben and Molloy make a gruesome discovery: a body lying face-down in the snow.
  Who is behind this vicious attack on Glendara and its residents? Ben tries to find answers, but is she the one in danger?
  THE WELL OF ICE will be published on October 5th. For more on Andrea Carter, clickety-click here

Sunday, July 23, 2017

News: Tana French Wins the Strand Critics Award

Yours truly was away on hols last week, so it’s a belated congratulations to Tana French, who earlier this month won the Strand Critics Award for Best Novel for THE TRESPASSER. Quoth the Strand elves:
After being nominated a record five times for Best Novel, Tana French took home the top prize for The Trespasser, which received rave reviews for blurring the lines between genre and literary fiction. In a statement read by her publicist Ben Petrone, French said: “I am honored and I really wish I were there tonight, and I am relying on Ben Petrone and Andrew [Gulli] to down a couple of my favorite cocktails for me.”
  THE TRESPASSER, of course, also took home the crime gong at last year’s Irish Books of the Year bunfight. For all the other winners at the Strand Critics Awards, clickety-click here

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2017

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles published / to be published in 2017, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis. To wit:

POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY by Adrian McKinty (January 5)

DEAD GIRLS DANCING by Graham Masterton (February 9)

LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey (March 9)
THE MISSING ONES by Patricia Gibney (March 16)
HEADBANGER / SAD BASTARD by Hugo Hamilton (March 23)

A GAME OF GHOSTS by John Connolly (April 6)
IN DEEP WATER by Sam Blake (April 11)
THE BLOOD MIRACLES by Lisa McInerney (April 20)
THE CARDINAL’S COURT by Cora Harrison (April 24)

THE THERAPY HOUSE by Julie Parsons (May 2)
THE CITY OF LIES by Michael Russell (May 4)
BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway (May 18)
THE LIAR by Steve Cavanagh (May 18)

SILVER’S CITY by Maurice Leitch (June 1)
PRAGUE NIGHTS by Benjamin Black (June 6)
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL by Andrea Mara (June 6)
ONE BAD TURN by Sinead Crowley (June 7)
HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck (June 13)
THE SWINGING DETECTIVE by Henry McDonald (June 22)

THE STOLEN GIRLS by Patricia Gibney (July 6)
AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy (July 13)
RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE by Clár Ní Chonghaile (July 15)
THE ORPHANS by Annemarie Neary (July 27)

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Karen Perry (August 26)
RAVENHILL by John Steele (August 31)

THE RELUCTANT CONTACT by Stephen Burke (Sept 7)
SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain (September 21)
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN by Cat Hogan (September TBA)

THE WELL OF ICE by Andrea Carter (October 5)

THE GHOSTS OF GALWAY by Ken Bruen (November 2)
BLOOD TIDE by Claire McGowan (November 9)

UNDERTOW by Anthony J. Quinn (December 14)

2018

SKIN DEEP by Liz Nugent (March 29)

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Publication: BEYOND ABSOLUTION by Cora Harrison

The hardest-working woman in Irish crime fiction, Cora Harrison, published BEYOND ABSOLUTION (Severn House) earlier this year, the latest in her historical mystery series featuring the Reverend Mother Aquinas and by my reckoning her fifth novel in less than two years. Quoth the blurb elves:
Ireland, 1925. Pierced through to the brain, the dead body of the priest was found wedged into the small, dark confessional cubicle. Loved by all, Father Dominic had lent a listening ear to sinners of all kinds: gunmen and policemen; prostitutes and nuns; prosperous businessmen and petty swindlers; tradesmen and thieves. But who knelt behind the metal grid and inserted a deadly weapon into that listening ear?
  The Reverend Mother Aquinas can do nothing for Father Dominic, but for the sake of his brother, her old friend Father Lawrence, she is determined to find out who killed him, and why.
  For more on Cora Harrison, clickety-click here

Monday, July 17, 2017

Feature: Benjamin Black on Crime Fiction and the City

Benjamin Black’s latest novel, PRAGUE NIGHTS (Viking), was published last month, a historical mystery set in – spoiler alert! – Prague, and sufficient reason for said Benny Blanco to wax lyrical in the Daily Telegraph on the topic of the city being God’s gift to the crime writer, said waxy lyricism encompassing the work of Raymond Chandler, Margery Allingham, Martin Cruz Smith, Michael Dibdin and Dostoevsky. To wit:
“The city is God’s gift to the crime writer. Yes, there is just as much scope, if not more, for blood-letting, skulduggery and devilment in the countryside as there is in town. However, the urban wilderness lends itself with particular aptness to noir fiction, whether it be Maigret’s Paris, Philip Marlowe’s Bay City, a lightly fictionalised version of Santa Monica, or Dostoevsky’s St Petersburg.
  “Of course, it used to be more congenial in the old days, before the coming of Clean Air Acts and the general frowning upon and legislation against the cigarette, that essential prop of the spinner of tales of stylish mayhem. The classic crime novel reeks of tobacco smoke, is touched with the wistful fragrance of sooty rain on shiny pavements and coughs its lungs out in peasouper fogs.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, July 14, 2017

Re-Issue: BOGMAIL by Patrick McGinley

I love the cover of Apollo’s re-issue of Patrick McGinley’s BOGMAIL, which is rather funky in and of itself, but also carries a quote from yours truly to the effect that BOGMAIL is ‘dark, twisted and blackly hilarious’ – which it is, although I would further add that BOGMAIL is a quietly absurdist masterpiece and a worthy heir to Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN. Anyway, herewith be the blurb elves:
A truly funny and stunningly well-told tale of murder in a small Irish village in Donegal, Bogmail is a classic of modern Irish literature.
  Set in a remote village, the action begins with a murder when Roarty, a publican and former priest, kills his bartender then buries his body in a bog. It's not long before Roarty starts getting blackmail letters, and matters quickly spiral out of his control.
  Twisty, turny and enlivened with colour that echoes the landscape and surroundings, Bogmail was Patrick McGinley's first novel, yet it remains just as fresh today as the day it first appeared.
  For a review of (New Island’s re-issue of) BOGMAIL, clickety-click here

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Event: DEAD IN DUN LAOGHAIRE

There’s a crime fiction ‘do’ taking place in Dun Laoghaire on July 22nd, when the Pavilion Theatre hosts a number of authors from the Penguin Random House Ireland stable to talk all things murderous and criminal. The event will take place in partnership with the Irish Times, and Irish writers taking part include Benjamin Black (John Banville) and Haylen Beck (Stuart Neville), Karen Perry and Liz Nugent, while Kathy Reichs and Paula Hawkins provide an international flavour. For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Publication: AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy

S.A. Dunphy publishes his debut thriller AFTER SHE VANISHED (Hachette Ireland) today, a first foray into fiction by the successful non-fiction author Shane Dunphy. Quoth the blurb elves:
Eighteen years ago David Dunnigan took his beloved six-year-old niece Beth on a shopping trip. They stopped on a crowded street to hear some buskers. She took her hand from his for a split second. And when he turned around, she was gone.
  Now Dunnigan, his life shattered, is a criminology lecturer and also works as a consultant for the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Harcourt Street, specialising in cases involving missing persons. That’s how he crosses paths with Harry, a young boy living on the streets whose parents have disappeared.
  As Dunnigan finds himself drawn into the world of The Warrens, a transient place where the dark underbelly of society lives, will he be able to help Harry? And what of Beth will he find there?
  For an interview with S.A. Dunphy on TV3, clickety-click here

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Podcast: Two Writers and a Microphone

The ‘Two Writers and a Microphone’ podcast goes from strength to strength, with Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste luring Norn Iron’s Gerard Brennan into their studio lair this week to talk about – among other things – THE MALTESE FALCON and THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE. Hey, why talk about other books when you can talk about the best, right?
  This week’s offering is the 38th episode in the ‘Two Writers and a Microphone’ saga. For a list of, and links to, all 38 episodes, clickety-click here

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Event: Irish Crime Writing at Boyle Arts Festival

I’m hugely looking forward to taking part in the Irish crime writing panel at the Boyle Arts Festival on July 22nd – they’re a fabulous bunch in Boyle, and looked after yours truly very well the last time I was there. Andrea Carter will be moderating a panel composed of Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and your humble correspondent, with the event taking place at 5pm on July 22nd at the Family Resource Centre, Boyle. If you’re in the vicinity – and where else would you want to be on a summer’s evening? – drop on by and say hello. For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, July 7, 2017

Short Story: ‘Tell Me Something About Your Wife’ by Karen Perry

Karen Perry – aka Karen Gillece and Paul Perry – had a short story published in the Irish Times this week, titled – ominously – ‘Tell Me Something About Your Wife’. You’ll find it here
  Meanwhile, the fourth Karen Perry psychological thriller, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? (Penguin), will be published next month. Quoth the blurb elves:
It’s been twenty years since Lindsey has seen her best friend Rachel
  Twenty years since she has set foot in Thornbury Hall – the now crumbling home of the Bagenal family – where they spent so much time as teenagers. Since Patrick Bagenal’s 18th birthday party, the night everything changed.
  It’s time for a reunion
  Patrick has decided on one last hurrah before closing the doors of his family home for good. All of the old crowd, back together for a weekend.
  For the secrets to come out
  It’s not long before secrets begin to float to the surface. Everything that Lindsey shared with her best friend at sixteen and everything that she didn’t.
  But some secrets should never be told. They need to be taken to the grave. While others require revenge at any cost.
  CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? will be published on August 26th. Karen Perry will be taking part in the ‘Dead in Dun Laoghaire’ crime fiction event on July 22nd. For a review of ONLY WE KNOW, clickety click here

Thursday, July 6, 2017

One to Watch: RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE by Clár Ní Chonghaile

Clár Ní Chonghaile follows up her debut novel, FRACTURED, with the Dublin-set RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE (Legend Press). Quoth the blurb elves:
Theo, a young Rwandan boy fleeing his country’s genocide, arrives in Dublin, penniless, alone and afraid. Still haunted by a traumatic memory in which his father committed a murderous act of violence, he struggles to find his place in the foreign city.
  Plagued by his past, Theo is gradually drawn deeper into the world of Dublin’s feared criminal gangs. But a chance encounter in a restaurant with Deirdre offers him a lifeline.
  Theo and Deirdre’s tender friendship is however soon threatened by tragedy. Can they confront their addictions to carve a future out of the catastrophe that engulfs both their lives?
  RAIN FALLS ON EVERYONE will be published on July 15th. For a review of FRACTURED, clickety-click here

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Launch: Haylen Beck at No Alibis

Stuart Neville launches the debut title for his pseudonym Haylen Beck, HERE AND GONE (Harvill Secker), at Belfast’s No Alibis at 7pm on Thursday, July 6th. Quoth the blurb elves:
Audra has finally left her abusive husband. She’s taken the family car and her young children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. This is their chance for a fresh start.
  Audra keeps to the country roads to avoid attention. She’s looking for a safe place to stay for the night when she spots something in her rear-view mirror. A police car is following her and the lights are flickering. Blue and red.
  As Audra pulls over she is intensely aware of how isolated they are. Her perfect escape is about to turn into a nightmare beyond her imagining …
  I read HERE AND GONE last month, and it’s the proverbial white-knuckle ride, a stripped-back thriller that delivers a hefty emotional wallop. But don’t take my word for it: Harlan Coben reckons that, “Packed with smart twists and unforgettable characters, HERE AND GONE is one of the best debuts of the year.”

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

One to Watch: RAVENHILL by John Steele

Described by Colin Bateman as ‘A cracking, fast-paced thriller,’ John Steele publishes the first in a Belfast-set series, RAVENHILL (Silvertail Books) next month. Quoth the blurb elves:
Belfast, 1993: Jackie Shaw is a young tearaway running with paramilitaries in Belfast. He treads a fine line keeping psychotic hard-man Rab Simpson in check while sleeping with gang leader Billy Tyrie’s beautiful wife on the side.
  When a bomb claims nine lives, he is given the role of getaway driver in a planned reprisal killing, a key role in a major operation. But Jackie may not be who he seems ...
  Twenty years later, Jackie returns to the city for his father’s funeral after disappearing in mysterious circumstances. He wants to mourn then leave, but when figures from his past emerge, he is left with no choice but to revisit his violent former life.
  RAVENHILL will be published on August 31st.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Top 10 Northern Irish Crime Novels: Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway (right) recently wrote a piece for the Strand Magazine on the Top 10 Northern Irish crime novels, and a very fine list it is too, despite the surprising absence of Eoin McNamee. In his Intro, Brian provides a context for why Northern Irish crime fiction has flourished over the last decade or so:
“I think it is also why Northern Irish crime fiction only really found its voice after the violence here subsided: there’s no need to vicariously experience fear when you are actually undergoing it. When I wrote Borderlands in 2003, I deliberately set out to write a novel unrelated to the Troubles. But, in the writing of it, I found the events of the previous thirty years remained a constant shadow, bleeding around the edges of every narrative. The same could be argued for many of the other crime writers here. In the absence of a Truth Commission in Northern Ireland, fiction is the closest we will come to an understanding of the past even as we chart our way forward. And crime fiction, more than any other genre, works in that dual movement—a crime novel starts at the end of the victim’s story and, while the narrative has continual forward momentum, the detectives are generally working backwards from the moment of the crime to trace the initial acts and motives that lead to it.”
  For Brian McGilloway’s Top 10 Northern Irish Crime Novels, clickety-click here

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Event: ‘Killing for a Living: Irish Crime Writers’

Sam Blake (right) will host an Irish crime writing event at the London Irish Centre later this month, interviewing Julie Parsons and Sheila Bugler on ‘the Art of Murder.’ To wit:
KILLING FOR A LIVING: IRISH CRIME WRITERS
DATE: JULY 23, 2017
DOORS: 15:30
VENUE: LONDON IRISH CENTRE
PRICE: £8
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Friday, June 30, 2017

‘Not Everyone Murders People in Their Sleep’: Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent (right) had a piece in the Irish Times this week, titled ‘Not Everyone Murders People in Their Sleep’, during which she touched on ‘the rise of Irish female crime writers’:
“I am often asked about the rise of Irish female crime writers in recent years. Maybe Tana French and Alex Barclay opened the doors for the rest of us, and as writer Jane Casey says, women are more attuned to threat. We are the ones looking over our shoulders, making sure that we have our keys in our hands, texting each other to make sure we got home safely.”
  I’d add Arlene Hunt and the doyenne of Irish crime fiction, Julie Parsons, to that list of trailblazers, and further suggest that Maeve Binchy probably had a lot to do with normalising the idea that being an Irish writer didn’t necessarily involve wanting to emulate the Joyces and Becketts of the canon.
  As to why women writers have come to the fore in recent years – we can add Sinead Crowley, Louise Phillips, Annemarie Neary and Andrea Carter to the names above – it may have something to do with the way crime fiction has moved on from the classical fantasy of the lone hero(ine) – Holmes, Poirot, Marple, Marlowe – taking on and defeating bad guys, and instead adopting a more realistic approach to the age-old human fear of the social and personal threat that crime represents.
  Whatever the reason, Liz Nugent is certainly in the vanguard, domestically and internationally, and her next novel, SKIN DEEP (Penguin Ireland), is already hotly anticipated. Quoth the blurb elves:
'Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.'
 Delphine Hamilton is a fake. She has been living on the Côte d'Azur for ten years, posing as an English heiress. However, her alimony is running out, her looks are fading, and her wealthy lovers are fewer and further between.
 Down to her last euros, and desperate to get out of her apartment, Delphine decides to spend the day at the Negresco where she is caught stealing another guest's meal. He takes pity on her and invites her to a party.
 The guests are young and beautiful and Delphine feels her age, and is achingly conscious of her worn out dress. But after a few lines of cocaine and multiple cocktails, she is oblivious to everything.
 Hours later, as dawn is breaking, she wakes up on the floor of a deserted hotel penthouse. She makes her way home through the back streets.
Even before she opens the door she can hear the flies buzzing and she realizes that the corpse in her bedroom has already begun to decompose ...
  SKIN DEEP will be published in March 2018.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: THE CITY OF LIES by Michael Russell

Opening in 1940, The City of Lies (Constable) is Michael Russell’s fourth novel to feature Dublin-based Special Branch detective Stefan Gillespie, whose mixed Irish-German heritage has proved useful to his superiors on previous occasions. Investigating a suspected murder-arson in West Wicklow, Stefan stumbles across what appears to be a German radio. Soon he is on his way to Berlin as a courier carrying crucial information to the Irish ambassador, there to encounter Francis Stuart and Frank Ryan, among others. Meanwhile, in 1939, Hauptmann Johannes Rilling records the atrocities being committed by German troops as they blitzkrieg through Poland, a series of mass murders of civilians on a scale previously unimaginable to a Wehrmacht officer. Blending historical events and personages into his fiction, Russell creates a vividly detailed tale which investigates the coming horrors of the Holocaust (“Blood spoke to blood; when it did there were no questions.”) and explores a Berlin drunk on power and triumph, but already experiencing the increasingly bizarre collective psychosis of a city built on lies. With the charmingly frank and diffident Stefan Gillespie as our guide, The City of Lies, by turns harrowing, tender and hopeful, is Michael Russell’s most accomplished novel to date. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times’ crime fiction column for June.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

One to Watch: SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain

SLEEPING BEAUTIES (Quercus) is the third in Jo Spain’s acclaimed series featuring DI Tom Reynolds, following on from WITH OUR BLESSING and BENEATH THE SURFACE. Quoth the blurb elves:
The inspector frowned and examined the earth under the trees. As he scanned the glade, his stomach lurched. One, two, three, four. Five, counting the mound of earth disturbed under the tent. Somebody had cleared the earth of its natural layer and sown their own flowers.
  In five places.
  Five graves.

  A young woman, Fiona Holland, has gone missing from a small Irish village. A search is mounted, but there are whispers. Fiona had a wild reputation. Was she abducted, or has she run away?
  A week later, a gruesome discovery is made in the woods at Ireland’s most scenic beauty spot - the valley of Glendalough. The bodies are all young women who disappeared in recent years. D.I. Tom Reynolds and his team are faced with the toughest case of their careers - a serial killer, who hunts vulnerable women, and holds his victims captive before he ends their lives.
  Soon the race is on to find Fiona Holland before it’s too late.
  SLEEPING BEAUTIES will be published on September 21st. For more on Jo Spain, clickety-click here

Monday, June 26, 2017

One to Watch: THE STOLEN GIRLS by Patricia Gibney

Patricia Gibney published her debut novel, THE MISSING ONES, on March 16th, but she’s obviously not a woman to rest on her laurels. The second offering in the Detective Lottie Parker series, THE STOLEN GIRLS (Bookouture), will be published on July 6th (e-book only). Quoth the blurb elves:
The young woman standing on Lottie’s step was a stranger. She was clutching the hand of a young boy. ‘Help me,’ she said to Lottie. ‘Please help me.’
  One Monday morning, the body of a young pregnant woman is found. The same day, a mother and her son visit the house of Detective Lottie Parker, begging for help to find a lost friend.
  Could this be the same girl?
  When a second victim is discovered by the same man, with the murder bearing all the same hallmarks as the first, Lottie needs to work fast to discover how else the two were linked. Then two more girls go missing.
  Detective Lottie Parker is a woman on the edge, haunted by her tragic past and struggling to keep her family together through difficult times. Can she fight her own demons and catch the killer before he claims another victim?
  For more on Patricia Gibney, clickety-click here

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Publication: THE CARDINAL’S COURT by Cora Harrison

Cora Harrison is one of the unsung heroes (heroines) of Irish crime fiction, and one of its most prolific authors too. THE CARDINAL’S COURT (The History Press), the first in a new series to feature lawyer Hugh Mac Egan, didn’t make my radar when it was published in April, but it sounds a terrific prospect. Quoth the blurb elves:
‘To shoot a man on the spur of the moment in the presence of the king and his court, not to mention the cardinal and his household, that took a boldness … Or utter despair.’
  HAMPTON COURT, 1522. Lawyer Hugh Mac Egan has arrived from Ireland to draw up the marriage contract between James Butler, son of his employer the Earl of Ormond, and Anne Boleyn – a dynastic alliance that will resolve an age-old inheritance dispute. But Anne, it seems, has other ideas. Her heart is set on Harry Percy, heir to the magnificent earldom of Northumberland, sparking rivalry between the two young men.
  When a member of Cardinal Wolsey’s palace staff is found shot dead with an arrow, Percy is quick to give evidence that implicates Butler. And with Percy’s testimony backed up by Butler’s artful bride-to-be, things start to look bleak for the young Irishman. In Tudor England, the accused is guilty until proven innocent.
  Against the backdrop of the Lenten festivities, Mac Egan sets out to exonerate his patron’s heir and find the real killer, uncovering as he does so the many factions and intrigues that lie beneath the surface at the cardinal’s court.
  For more on Cora Harrison, clickety-click here

Friday, June 23, 2017

One to Watch: AFTER SHE VANISHED by S.A. Dunphy

Shane Dunphy has previously published a number of non-fiction titles, but as S.A. Dunphy he publishes his debut novel AFTER SHE VANISHED (Hachette Ireland). Quoth the blurb elves:
Eighteen years ago David Dunnigan took his beloved six-year-old niece Beth on a shopping trip. They stopped on a crowded street to hear some buskers. She took her hand from his for a split second. And when he turned around, she was gone.
  Now Dunnigan, his life shattered, is a criminology lecturer and also works as a consultant for the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation in Harcourt Street, specialising in cases involving missing persons. That’s how he crosses paths with Harry, a young boy living on the streets whose parents have disappeared.
  As Dunnigan finds himself drawn into the world of The Warrens, a transient place where the dark underbelly of society lives, will he be able to help Harry? And what of Beth will he find there?
  AFTER SHE VANISHED will be published on July 13th. For an interview with S.A. Dunphy, clickety-click here

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Review: BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. Bigotry and hate crimes provide the backdrop to Brian McGilloway’s Bad Blood (Corsair, €15.99), the fourth in his series to feature DS Lucy Black of Derry’s Public Protection Unit. In this fascinating snapshot of contemporary Northern Ireland, however, which is set against the impending Brexit referendum, the bigotry and hatred is no longer confined to sectarianism: Lucy separately investigates the intimidation of a Roma family on the Greenway Estate, and the murder of a young gay man, bludgeoned to death with a rock. Intolerance is the new normal, it seems, for ‘the community-sanctioned psychopaths defending their culture’ who maintain their stranglehold on their tiny fiefdoms. A compelling tale of twisted loyalties and betrayals, the story plays out in the mean streets and back alleyways populated by a lost tribe, long since poisoned and abandoned by their politicians, who wander the concrete wilderness following the faint echo of the long-promised ‘peace dividend’. The clean-living and morally sound Lucy Black may be too good to be true by the standards of today’s crime fiction as she pursues the truth through Derry’s claustrophobic labyrinth, but like McGilloway’s previous creation, DI Benedict Devlin, she represents the hope that things may change, and perhaps even for the better. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times’ crime column for June.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One to Watch: HE: A NOVEL by John Connolly

John Connolly likes to keep busy, or maybe his restless imagination gives him no choice in the matter. Either way, he follows up A GAME OF GHOSTS from earlier in the year with he: A Novel (Hodder & Stoughton), which looks like it’s worth buying on the strength of its cover alone, and sounds like a very intriguing proposition indeed. Quoth the blurb elves:
John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity and the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists.
  An extraordinary reimagining of the life of one of the greatest screen comedians the world has ever known: a man who knew both adoration and humiliation; who loved, and was loved in turn; who betrayed, and was betrayed; who never sought to cause pain to others, yet left a trail of affairs and broken marriages in his wake . . .
  And whose life was ultimately defined by one relationship of such tenderness and devotion that only death could sever it: his partnership with the man he knew as Babe.
  he is Stan Laurel.
  But he did not really exist. Stan Laurel was a fiction.
  With he, John Connolly recreates the golden age of Hollywood for an intensely compassionate study of the tension between commercial demands and artistic integrity, the human frailties behind even the greatest of artists, and one of the most enduring and beloved partnerships in cinema history: Laurel & Hardy.
  he: A Novel will be published on August 24th. For more, clickety-click here

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Event: Noireland International Crime Fiction Festival

Hear ye, hear ye, and throw another trumpet parp on the fire there, please, maestro. I am reliably informed (by a combination of guesswork and speculation, natch) that details for the inaugural Noireland International Crime Fiction Festival will be available in the shortest order possible, and perhaps even as early as next week. What we do know – having diligently researched the topic as befits a professional journalist (koff) – is that said festival will take place at the Europa Hotel from October 27th to 29th, and that said festival is (quote) ‘A brand new crime festival with a distinctly Irish accent.’ After donning the old deerstalker and snorting a couple of lines, we further deduce from the fact that the festival is being held in Belfast that the imperishable No Alibis bookstore, and its equally unsinkable proprietor David Torrans, will likely be involved to a greater or lesser degree (which is not to rule out the possibility of David and No Alibis not being involved at all), and that the line-up will include crime fiction writers both domestic and international. Here endeth the speculation and guesswork previously advertised.
  To sign up for Noireland updates, clickety-click here

Review: CARDBOARD GANGSTERS by Mark O’Connor

The Irish crime flick comes of age with Cardboard Gangsters (18s), in which Jason Connolly (John Connors), ‘sick of waiting on line for a hand-out’, decides to muscle in on the drug trade on Dublin’s Darndale estates. Aided (but largely abetted) by his buddies Whacker (Alan Clinch), Dano (Fionn Walton) and Glenner (Paul Alwright), Jason goes toe-to-toe with local gangland kingpin, Derra Murphy (Jimmy Smallhorne), a bravura act compounded by Jason’s inability to resist the temptation of leaping into bed with Derra’s wife Kim (Kierston Wareing) … The comparisons with Love / Hate are unavoidable, but it’s by no means a stretch to suggest that Cardboard Gangsters is an Irish Little Caesar, charting as it does the mercurial rise of a feral criminal who recognises no law but his own. Directed by Mark O’Connor, who co-writes with John Connors, the story fairly thrums with menace, as the hemmed-in Jason simmers at his lack of opportunity and threatens to explode at any moment. More of a strategist than his impulsive friends, Jason understands the extent to which the system is rigged against him; for all his innate intelligence, however, Jason also understands that in ‘the jungle’ (aka Darndale), only the strongest, the cruellest and the most ruthless thrive. Caustically funny, the doom-laden plot doesn’t throw up too many surprises, mainly because Mark O’Connor and John Connors adhere to the classic noir story arc, but the film powers along on the strength of Connors’ phenomenal performance as he creates an anti-hero who is by turns charismatic, repellent, sympathetic and ultimately tragic. ***** ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Review: LITTLE BONES by Sam Blake

Skeletons tumble out of cupboards early on in Sam Blake’s debut novel, when the little bones of the title are found sewn into the hem of an old wedding dress owned by artist Zoe Grant. Garda detective Cathy Connolly makes the macabre discovery when she is called to Zoe’s house in Dun Laoghaire to investigate what she assumes will be a routine break-and-enter, her horror compounded by the fact that Cathy herself is newly pregnant. Has Zoe murdered a baby? And if so, where are the rest of the infant’s remains?
  It’s an intriguing opening gambit, but Blake doesn’t rest on her laurels. Soon after, Zoe’s fabulously wealthy grandmother Lavinia is found dead in mysterious circumstances, and a cold-blooded killer from Las Vegas arrives in south County Dublin with the FBI hot on his heels. Meanwhile, in London, Emily and Tony Cox volunteer to care for the aging Mary, a mugging victim whose addled memory offers us glimpses of a privileged upbringing not entirely dissimilar to that of Lavinia Grant.
  The reader, of course, understands that these apparently unrelated plot strands must converge at some point, dragged together by the resourceful Cathy Connolly. A three-time national kick-boxing champion, Cathy is a likeable protagonist, a force of nature who projects an impressive physicality and professionalism even as her interior monologues betray her emotional confusion and self-doubt. In this she is reminiscent of Jane Casey’s London-based Maeve Kerrigan and Alex Barclay’s Denver-based Ren Bryce, characters who are the antithesis of the supremely self-confident and all-conquering heroes of the more macho style of thriller, and all the more fascinating for it.
  Moreover, it quickly becomes clear as the story unfolds that Sam Blake hasn’t employed the motif of an infant’s bones simply for the sake of an attention-grabbing narrative gambit. Cathy’s boss, Dawson O’Rourke, reminds Cathy of a cold case from the 1970s, when a new-born baby was murdered with a knitting-needle, the investigation of which was botched by the Gardaí. That case in turn leads us back into the 1950s, with Blake evoking the kind of suffocating patriarchal society in which a desperate young woman, having given birth out of wedlock, might be driven to take exceptionally desperate measures. Not that much has changed for Cathy Connolly; on hearing the Angelus bells, Cathy is reminded “that the Church was watching, waiting, like a great black crow hungry for the weak to stumble.” Blake isn’t the first Irish crime writer to engage with the long shadow of the Church’s malign influence, of course – Ken Bruen’s Priest and Jo Spain’s debut With Our Blessing spring to mind – but here she handles her material with an impressive sensitivity to the horrors visited upon generations of Irish women.
  That said, the latter stages are less convincing than Blake’s set-up promises. A veritable blizzard of revelations is required to tie together the various plot-strands, and credibility is strained by some of the developments required to bring the truth to light. The pace is frenetic, and the last third in particular is chock-a-block with twists and reversals, but readers who prefer a more patient, inevitable denouement might find themselves disorientated by the sheer volume of shocks and surprises Cathy Connolly unearths as the story races toward its pulsating climax.
  For the most part, however, Little Bones is a notably ambitious debut novel, a meticulously researched police procedural and a striking example of the crime novel as a vehicle for exploring society’s flaws and fault-lines. Cathy Connolly is a compelling character, a creation as complicated, flawed and gripping as Little Bones itself, and one who augurs well for Sam Blake’s future. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Publication: THE LIAR by Steve Cavanagh

Published on May 18th, THE LIAR (Orion) is Steve Cavanagh’s third novel to feature his incorrigible New York attorney (and former con artist) Eddie Flynn (“Plotting that takes the breath away,” according to one Ian Rankin). Quoth the blurb elves:
IT TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE ...
  WHO IS DEADLIER ...
  Leonard Howell’s worst nightmare has come true: his daughter Caroline has been kidnapped. Not content with relying on the cops, Howell calls the only man he trusts to get her back.
  ... THE MAN WHO KNOWS THE TRUTH ...
  Eddie Flynn knows what it’s like to lose a daughter and vows to bring Caroline home safe. Once a con artist, now a hotshot criminal attorney, Flynn is no stranger to the shady New York underworld.
  ... OR THE ONE WHO BELIEVES A LIE?
  However, as he steps back into his old life, Flynn realizes that the rules of game have changed - and that he is being played. But who is pulling the strings? And is anyone in this twisted case telling the truth...?
  For more on Steve Cavanagh, clickety-click here

Friday, June 16, 2017

Publication: BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway

The fourth in Brian McGilloway’s increasingly impressive Derry-set series featuring DS Lucy Black, BAD BLOOD (Corsair) was published on May 18th. Quoth the blurb elves:
A young man is found in a riverside park, his head bashed in with a rock. The only clue to his identity is an admission stamp for the local gay club.
  DS Lucy Black is called in to investigate. As Lucy delves into the community, tensions begin to rise as the man’s death draws the attention of the local Gay Rights group to a hate-speech Pastor who, days earlier, had advocated the stoning of gay people and who refuses to retract his statement.
  Things become further complicated with the emergence of a far right group targeting immigrants in a local working class estate. As their attacks escalate, Lucy and her boss, Tom Fleming, must also deal with the building power struggle between an old paramilitary commander and his deputy that threatens to further enflame an already volatile situation.
  Hatred and complicity abound in the days leading up to the Brexit vote in McGilloway’s new Lucy Black thriller. Compelling and current, Bad Blood is an expertly crafted and acutely observed page-turner, delivering the punch that readers of LITTLE GIRL LOST have grown to expect.
  For the Financial Times’ review of BAD BLOOD, clickety-click here

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Publication: SILVER’S CITY by Maurice Leitch

Turnpike Books republish Maurice Leitch’s SILVER’S CITY, which won the Whitbread Prize on its original publication in 1981, describing it as ‘one of the most seminal fictional portraits of the Troubles’ and the novel which ‘introduced a new authenticity to the literature of Northern Ireland’. Quoth the blurb elves:
Belfast is Silver’s city. The city always made you pay for your dreams. Silver Steele, the folk-hero who fired the first shot of the Troubles, escapes from a prison cell into a city where he is remembered only in graffiti and finds a world where he is a symbol of a cause he no longer belongs to. Silver discovers that he has swapped a cell for the illusion of freedom: he is now the prisoner of Galloway, one of a new generation of gunmen. Against the background of a city at war, Silver and Galloway engage in a private duel to the death.
  For more on Maurice Leitch, clickety-click here

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Publication: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL by Andrea Mara

Andrea Mara published her debut thriller, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL (Poolbeg), on June 6th, with the blurb elves delivering what sounds like a gripping domestic noir set-up. To wit:
When Sylvia looks out her bedroom window at night and sees a child face down in the pond next door, she races into her neighbour’s garden. But the pond is empty, and no-one is answering the door.
  Wondering if night feeds and sleep deprivation are getting to her, she hurriedly retreats. Besides, the fact that a local child has gone missing must be preying on her mind. Then, a week later, she hears the sound of a man crying through her bedroom wall.
  The man living next door, Sam, has recently moved in. His wife and children are away for the summer and he joins them at weekends. Sylvia finds him friendly and helpful, yet she becomes increasingly uneasy about him.
  Then Sylvia’s little daughter wakes one night, screaming that there’s a man in her room. This is followed by a series of bizarre disturbances in the house.
  Sylvia’s husband insists it’s all in her mind, but she is certain it’s not - there’s something very wrong on the other side of the wall.
  For more on Andrea Mara, clickety-click here

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Launch: THE SWINGING DETECTIVE by Henry McDonald

Ireland correspondent for the Guardian and the Observer, Henry McDonald launches THE SWINGING DETECTIVE at No Alibis later this month. Quoth the blurb elves:
Set in Northern Ireland and Berlin, the novel takes us into the dark world of espionage, dirty dealing, journalism and the harsh reality of life in Berlin. Captain Peters is handed a video of a gruesome murder as he visits his favourite swinging cafe. Soon Berlin is in turmoil because of a serial killer leaving a trail of headless corpses while a populist leader surfs the crest of outrage to influence the upcoming mayoral elections. With the aid of a former girlfriend, Peters cuts a b-line for the murderer through the heady Berlin cast of seedy underworld figures, Russian mafia, corrupt politicians, neo-Nazis and Israeli avengers, but his private swinging life is starting to interfere with his investigation …
  The launch will take place at No Alibis, Belfast, on Thursday, June 22nd, at 6.30pm. The event is free, but you’ll need to book your ticket in advance here

Monday, June 12, 2017

One to Watch: THE ORPHANS by Annemarie Neary

Adding significantly to the number of Irish crime writers who also hold a Masters in Venetian Renaissance Art, Annemarie Neary publishes her third novel, THE ORPHANS (Hutchinson), in July. Quoth the blurb elves:
Eight-year-old Jess and her little brother were playing at the water’s edge when their parents vanished. For hours the children held hands and waited for them to return. But nobody ever came back. Years later, Jess has become a locker of doors. Now a lawyer and a mother, she is determined to protect the life she has built around her. But her brother Ro has grown unpredictable, elusive and obsessive. When new evidence suggests that their mother might be alive, Ro reappears, convinced that his sister knows more than she claims. And then bad things start to happen …
  THE ORPHANS will be published on July 27th. For more on Annemarie Neary, clickety-click here

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Event: Dalkey Noir with Liz Nugent, Jane Casey and Sinead Crowley

It’s not often I find myself urging people to visit a Masonic lodge, but the Dalkey Book Festival takes place next weekend, and the Masonic Lodge in Dalkey is where Liz Nugent, Sinead Crowley and Jane Casey will be holding court (like, seriously – there are actual thrones) and talking all things crime fiction on Saturday, June 17th, at 11.30am. To wit:
Join three phenomenally successful bestselling authors in one intimate room. Sinead Crowley’s latest thriller is partly set in (a fictionalised) Dalkey. Together with Jane Casey, author of the award-winning Maeve Kerrigan series, she will be talking to Liz Nugent about the rise and rise of the female thriller writers who dominate bestseller lists.
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Publication: PRAGUE NIGHTS by Benjamin Black

Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) has published seven novels in the Quirke series, which are set in Dublin in the 1950s, but recently Black’s been wandering into the realms of the standalone. The Raymond Chandler-inspired Philip Marlowe novel THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE (2014) is now followed by PRAGUE NIGHTS (Viking), with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
“The emperor’s mistress had been murdered, and the world had been taken hold of and turned upon its head.’
  Prague, 1599. Christian Stern, a young doctor, has just arrived in the city. On his first evening, he finds a young woman’s body half-buried in the snow.
  The dead woman is none other than the emperor’s mistress, and there’s no shortage of suspects. Stern is employed by the emperor himself to investigate the murder. In the search to find the culprit, Stern finds himself drawn into the shadowy world of the emperor’s court - unspoken affairs, letters written in code, and bitter rivalries. But there’s no turning back now ...
  PRAGUE NIGHTS was published on June 1st. For a review, clickety-click here

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

One to Watch: THE RELUCTANT CONTACT by Stephen Burke

Author and filmmaker Stephen Burke publishes his second novel, THE RELUCTANT CONTACT (Hodder & Stoughton) in September. The first, THE GOOD ITALIAN, was shortlisted for the HWA Debut Crown award, and the RNA’s Best Historical Fiction prize. Quoth the blurb elves:
The Svalbard archipelago, 1977, Norwegian territory, yet closer to the North Pole. Russian engineer Yuri arrives on the last boat to the Soviet mining outpost of Pyramiden, as the Arctic sun disappears for the winter. Yuri still plays by Stalin-era rules: Don’t trust anyone; Keep your head down; Look after number one. Yet when a co-worker is found dead deep in the mine, the circumstances appear strange. Against his better judgement, Yuri breaks his own rules, and decides to investigate. At the same time, he begins a stormy love affair with the volatile, brooding Anya. She has come to Pyramiden to meet someone who has not shown himself in three months, if he exists at all. While the whole island is frozen in 24-hour darkness, Yuri enters a dangerous world of secrets and conflicting agendas, where even the people closest to you are not always what they seem.
  THE RELUCTANT CONTACT will be published on September 7th. For more, clickety-click here

Event: TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS at the Belfast Book Festival

I’m hugely looking forward to getting up to Belfast for the Book Festival on June 10th, where I’ll be hosting a conversation between three of the finest Irish crime writers out there, and who – no coincidence – contributed to TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island Books). To wit:
BBF17: TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS - NEW STORIES BY IRISH CRIME WRITERS

Saturday 10 June at 2pm
£6 | £4
at the Crescent Arts Centre


Irish crime writers have long been established on the international stage as bestsellers and award winners. Now, for the first time ever, the best in contemporary Irish crime novelists have been brought together in one volume. Author, editor and journalist Declan Burke will be leading the conversation on Irish crime writing with Louise Phillips, Julie Parsons and Stuart Neville.

Declan Burke is a writer, editor, journalist and critic. He has published six crime novels. He edited Trouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers in 2016.

Louise Phillips is an author of four bestselling psychological crime thrillers, each shortlisted for Best Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Her second novel, The Doll’s House, won the award. She is currently working on her latest novel, Dark Day In May.

Julie Parsons was born in New Zealand but has lived most of her adult life in Ireland. She was a radio and television producer with RTÉ for many years until the publication of her first novel, Mary, Mary in 1998. Her subsequent novels, including The Hourglass (2005) and I Saw You (2008) were all published internationally and translated into many languages.

Stuart Neville’s crime fiction has won numerous awards, including the LA Times Book Prize. Stuart also writes under the pen name Haylen Beck, whose debut novel, Here and Gone is due to be published this summer and is in development for the screen.
  To book tickets, clickety-click here ...

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Editing Services

I am a freelance editor, copy-editor and proof-reader.
 My speciality is crime fiction. As an award-winning author and editor in the genre, I can provide invaluable insights into every sub-genre of crime and mystery fiction.
 Baffled by your own plot? Unable to give your characters the desired depth? Struggling to master the intricacies of dialogue? Keen to give your prose a final polish? Whether your manuscript requires an intensive edit or one last brush-up before you send it off to an agent or publisher, I can help.
 For more information, or an informal chat, contact Declan Burke at dbrodb(at)gmail.com

Relevant Information:
I am an award-winning author and editor.
 I regularly tutor creative writing courses at the Irish Writers’ Centre. These courses include modules on structure, plot, character, narrative voice, setting and dialogue. One of my former students is an Amazon #1 bestseller.
 I am a copyeditor for a major UK publisher. I am also a first reader for a number of Irish literary agents.
 As a proof-reader I worked for the legal publishers Thomson Round Hall.
 Since 2007, I have hosted the blog ‘Crime Always Pays’, which is dedicated to Irish crime fiction.
 I write a monthly crime fiction column for the Irish Times.
 I have hosted numerous public events and interview panels, helping to organise and co-ordinate literary festivals, including the inaugural Irish crime writing festival at Glucksman Ireland House, NYU.

Publishing History as Author:
Eightball Boogie (Sitric) (2003)
The Big O (Hag’s Head Press) (2007)
Absolute Zero Cool (Liberties Press) (2011)
Slaughter’s Hound (Liberties Press) (2012)
Crime Always Pays (Severn House) (2014)
The Lost and the Blind (Severn House (2015)

Publishing History as Editor:
Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Liberties Press) (2011)
Books to Die For (co-edited with John Connolly) (Hodder & Stoughton) (2012)
Trouble Is Our Business (New Island Books) (2016)

Nominations and Awards
Absolute Zero Cool won the Goldsboro Award in 2012. Eightball Boogie, Slaughter’s Hound and Absolute Zero Cool were all shortlisted for the crime fiction prize at the Irish Book Awards. The Big O, Slaughter’s Hound and Crime Always Pays were all shortlisted for the Goldsboro Award for Comic Crime Fiction.
Books to Die For won the Anthony and Macavity Award for Best Non-Fiction Crime. It was further nominated for the Edgar Award and HRF Keating Award for Best Critical / Biographical Crime Fiction.

Relevant Skills:
Award-winning books editor and author.
Experienced proof-reader and sub-editor.
Experienced creative writing tutor.
Professional journalist, with a record of writing for most of Ireland’s best-known newspapers, including the Irish Times, the Sunday Times, the Irish Examiner and the Sunday Independent.

Review: HOFFER by Tim Glencross

Aesthete, fraud, mooch and fixer, William Hoffer is the latest in a long line of charming sociopaths cast in the mould of Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley. Tim Glencross’s Hoffer (John Murray) opens in contemporary London, with William Hoffer moving in the rarefied circles of international finance, friend to aristocrats and confidante of Russian oligarchs. Ex-West Point, ex-CIA, Hoffer’s shady past as a go-between facilitating the money-laundering of Mexican drug cartels catches up with him when Diana Dominguez Saavedra, the daughter of one of Hoffman’s old sparring partners in Mexico, is discovered dead in his Onslow Square flat. Languidly paced, deliciously arch in tone, Hoffer delivers an anti-hero who is indeed a 21st century Tom Ripley, a genteel killer who makes the rounds of London’s galleries and clubs, all the while frantically plotting his escape from the web spun by his lies. What elevates Glencross above his fellow Highsmith disciples, however, is the novel’s bone-dry humour. “The last time I experienced something similar had been a cantina in Oaxaca,” says Hoffer of a dizzy spell, “the sort of place where the urinal by the bar was not a Duchampian whimsy.” ~ Declan Burke

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Launch: ONE BAD TURN by Sinead Crowley

Sinead Crowley launches ONE BAD TURN (Quercus) next week, said tome being the third in her series of Dublin-set psychological thrillers featuring DS Claire Boyle, with both of first two novels shortlisted for the best crime novel gong at the Irish Book Awards. The launch details:
Wednesday, June 7th, at 7pm
Dubray Books, Grafton Street, Dublin 2
  Quoth the blurb elves:
Being held hostage at gunpoint by her childhood friend is not Dr Heather Gilmore’s idea of a good day at work. It only gets worse when she hears that her nineteen-year-old daughter Leah has been kidnapped.
  Sergeant Claire Boyle wasn’t expecting to get caught up in a hostage situation during a doctor’s appointment. When it becomes apparent that the kidnapping is somehow linked to the hostage-taker, a woman called Eileen Delaney, she is put in charge of finding the missing girl.
  What happened between Eileen and Heather to make Eileen so determined to ruin her old friend? Claire Boyle must dig up the secrets from their pasts to find out - and quickly, because Leah is still missing, and time is running out to save her.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Review: SINCE WE FELL by Dennis Lehane

Dennis Lehane established his reputation as one of contemporary crime fiction’s masters with the Kenzie-Gennaro series of private eye novels, the first of which, A Drink Before the War, was published in 1994. Since then, Lehane has published standalone thrillers – Mystic River (2001) and Shutter Island (2003) – and most recently concluded an epic historical trilogy featuring Prohibition-era gangster Joe Coughlin.
  Lehane’s latest novel, Before We Fell (Little, Brown) offers his take on yet another crime fiction sub-genre, domestic noir. ‘On a Tuesday in May,’ the Prologue begins, ‘in her thirty-seventh year, Rachel shot her husband dead.’ No surprises there, given that domestic noir generally involves terrorised women triumphing over vicious, controlling men. ‘He stumbled backward with an odd look of confirmation on his face,’ Lehane continues, acknowledging the sub-genre’s conventions, ‘as if some part of him had always known she’d do it.’ The first of many twists swiftly follows, however, when Rachel realises that the last words her husband says to her are ‘I love you,’ and that Rachel, if asked whether she loved her husband even as she pulled the trigger, would have answered yes.
  The central appeal of domestic noir, of course, is that it explores the terrifying prospect of the person who is supposed to be your nearest and dearest being unmasked as your worst enemy, an enemy, more often than not, with murder on their mind. The temptation, from a writer’s point of view, is to lean too heavily on the readers’ expectations, and eventually reveal the predatorial character – there being little else by way of convincing motive to explain such a dramatic volte-face – as a grotesque sociopath. Despite working within domestic noir’s parameters, however, Lehane refuses the easy option at every turn. Rachel’s husband, Brian Delacroix, is as genuinely likeable and charismatic as his feelings for Rachel are genuinely those of a loving husband, a characterisation that regularly wrongfoots the reader anticipating Brian’s taking of axe to the bathroom door whilst yodelling ‘Heeeeere’s Brian!’
  That said, Since We Fell is Rachel Child’s story, and Lehane devotes the first third of the novel to exploring her complex character. Raised by her mother, Rachel becomes obsessed with discovering the identity of the father who abandoned her at an early age, an identity her mother, poisoned by bitterness, deliberately withholds. A journalist by trade, Rachel nevertheless finds herself stymied at every turn; and when she commissions a private detective, Brian Delacroix, to continue the search, he is no more successful.
  A decade later, with a failed marriage behind her, and sacked after an on-air nervous breakdown when broadcasting live from Haiti, Rachel has become a shut-in, an agoraphobe deeply scarred with the horrors she witnessed in Haiti. Enter Brian Delacroix, beaming his crooked smile and exuding an irrepressible can-do attitude, lacking only a white charger as sets about freeing the princess from her self-imposed exile in her lonely tower, where she struggles to write a memoir. Roughly a third of the way in, and with story still patiently meandering down the byways of Rachel’s formative experiences, it’s tempting to believe that Lehane is describing his own experience of writing Since We Fell when Rachel observes that her story-telling is ‘a more free-flowing approach than she ever would have allowed herself as a journalist … something that, at the moment, spoke in cadence more than structure.’
  Then Rachel, on a rare outing, sees Brian in Boston when he is pretending to be in London, and the story very swiftly accelerates into a plot with more twists and turns than the Monaco grand prix, to the extent that you can believe Lehane is now having fun with Raymond Chandler’s advice on dealing with those occasional sticky moments when the action flags, which is to have a man come through the door with a gun already in his hand.
  What transpires, as Rachel runs for her life whilst trying to get to the root of Brian’s deceit, might seem improbable were it not for that meticulously crafted build-up. There are no grotesques here, no facile cliff-hangers, no red herrings so obviously stale they’re stinking up the joint. Since We Fell is a deliciously old-fashioned melodrama about ordinary people doing extraordinary things, a brilliantly unconventional domestic noir that confirms Dennis Lehane’s mastery of the crime narrative in all its varied forms. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Irish Times’ Crime Fiction Column

The wandering daughter job has been a staple of the private eye genre since Dashiell Hammett coined the phrase in 1929, but John Connolly’s A Game of Ghosts (Hodder & Stoughton, €17.99) offers a neat twist on the convention of the private eye quest when private investigator Charlie Parker is commissioned to track down fellow gumshoe Jaycob Eklund, who has likely wandered into harm’s way due to a long-standing fascination with the paranormal. As its title suggests, the 17th novel in Connolly’s Charlie Parker series is more directly engaged with the supernatural than some of his more recent offerings: before he went missing, we discover, Eklund was investigating the Brethren, an ancient family that preys on the unwary from beyond the grave; meanwhile, Parker’s daughter Sam, a fascinating character who is long overdue her own novel, grows increasingly aware of the role she is fated to play in her father’s epic battle with evil. What follows is an absorbing tale of sin, punishment, atonement and redemption, the language as precisely measured and slowly beaten out as a eulogy delivered to the rhythm of a muffled drum, as Connolly lures us yet again into those shadows where he has created, as all great storytellers do, a world that is uniquely his own.
  JS Monroe’s Find Me (Head of Zeus, €18.45) opens with Jarleth Costello seeing his ex-girlfriend Rosa at a Tube station, even though Rosa – officially, at least – took her own life five years previously. Jarleth frequently experiences bereavement hallucinations, but this time Rosa’s appearance coincides with Jarleth being watched and followed. Is he succumbing to paranoia? And if Rosa were still alive, as Jarleth has always believed, why would the former Cambridge student have faked her death? JS Monroe has previously published five spy novels as Jon Stock, but Find Me is a conspiracy thriller in which amateur sleuth Jarleth is plunged into a world of spooks and covert black-ops as he pursues the truth of Rosa’s disappearance. The tale proceeds via the parallel narratives of Jarleth’s investigation and diary entries, as Jarleth stumbles across a journal Rosa left behind, an encrypted document which can only be decrypted one entry at a time. It’s a conceit designed to maintain narrative suspense, but it’s one which grows increasingly implausible, as is the motive the reader is given for Rosa’s reappearance in Jarleth’s life. John le Carré and Len Deighton are referenced throughout, but Find Me, though an entertaining page-turner, falls well short of such standards.
  Sabine Durrant’s fifth novel, Lie With Me (Mulholland Books, €17.99), is a comi-tragedy centring on Paul Morris, once a best-selling author now reduced to mooching off friends and family. Wangling his way into a Greek holiday on the Ionian island of Pyros with some old Cambridge acquaintances, Paul’s vanity comes back to haunt him when he finds himself at the centre of an investigation into the murder of a young female tourist some ten years previously. Paul Morris might easily be a Patricia Highsmith creation, even if Sabine Durrant very deliberately renders her anti-hero a rather charmless Tom Ripley, a libidinous sociopath who lacks any redeeming features other than the callous honesty of his internal monologues, such as when Paul observes that ‘The selfish response to events was so much more straightforward than the morally correct.’ The Greek setting is beautifully detailed, the large cast of characters neatly sketched in, and the plot is fiendishly deceptive as it gradually undermines the readers’ expectations. A slow-burning tale, Lie With Me is a blackly humorous and surprisingly affecting psychological thriller.
  Set in Naples, Laurent Gaudé’s Hell’s Gate (Gallic, €12.75) opens in 2004 with Filippo Scalfaro De Nittis scheming to avenge the death of his father, Matteo, by stabbing gangster Toto Cullaccio. Filippo seems prone to grandiose pronouncements (‘I’ve come back from the dead. I have memories of hell and fears of the world ending.’) until the story flashes back to 1980, when we discover that Filippo, then six years old, was shot dead when caught in the cross-fire of a gangsters’ shoot-out as his father Matteo brought him to school. Hell’s Gate is the revenge thriller reimagined as an existential meditation, and one that owes a considerable debt to Dante and Homer, as the bereaved Matteo descends among the shades of the Underworld and harrows hell in a self-sacrificing bid to restore his son to life. Despite giving a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘criminal underworld’, Hell’s Gate is by no means a conventional crime novel, with Gaudé focusing his energies on creating a claustrophobically intense contemporary myth that brilliantly evokes the madness of grief.
  Jo Nesbo’s The Thirst (Harvill Secker, €14.99) is the 11th novel to feature Oslo police detective Harry Hole, although Harry is no longer a detective, instead lecturing at Oslo’s police academy. When lawyer Elise Hermansen is murdered by a man she has just met on Tinder, however, the details are particularly gruesome – the man employed a set of spring-loaded steel teeth to bite out his victim’s throat – and soon Harry is commissioned to set up an independent investigative unit to hunt down what appears to be a deranged vampirist with a raging thirst for human blood. Despite being a collection of fictional detective tropes – the genius loner maverick who has resents authority and struggles with addiction – Harry Hole is enjoyably sardonic company as he unravels the mystery of ‘the vampire killer’, albeit that his efforts are hugely helped by the fact that the killer is an old foe who simply can’t help leaving clues to help Harry’s investigation along. Leaving very few serial killer clichés unturned (‘At last we meet again, Harry’), The Thirst is a polished pot-boiler that will likely delight Jo Nesbo fans but leave anyone encountering Harry Hole (‘the most mythologised murder detective in the Oslo Police’) for the first time wondering what all the fuss is about. ~ Declan Burke

  This column was first published in the Irish Times.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Launch: THE THERAPY HOUSE by Julie Parsons

It has been far too long since Julie Parsons last published a novel, so I’m delighted to see that her latest, THE THERAPY HOUSE, will be published by New Island Books early next month. To wit:

New Island Books
requests the pleasure of your company to celebrate the launch of The Therapy House by Julie Parsons on
Tuesday, May 2nd at 7.00pm
in DLR LexIcon
Dun Laoghaire
Co. Dublin
  To mark the publication of her first novel in nearly ten years, Julie will be in conversation with fellow writer and journalist Declan Hughes.

  Please note: this is a seated event. Please arrive not later than 6.45pm for a 7pm start. Tickets are free but booking is essential via Eventbrite.

  ‘Julie Parsons takes the psychological suspense thriller to places it rarely dares to go ...’ The New York Times
On Sundays peace was restored. He would lie down, dream and remember. He would enjoy. And later on the bell would ring. He would get up and walk downstairs. He would open the front door. And his life would come to an end ...

Garda Inspector Michael McLoughlin is trying to enjoy his retirement – doing a bit of PI work on the side, meeting up with former colleagues, fixing up a grand old house in a genteel Dublin suburb near the sea.

Then he discovers the body of his neighbour, a retired judge – brutally murdered, shot through the back of the neck, his face mutilated beyond recognition. McLoughlin finds himself drawn into the murky past of the murdered judge, which leads him back to his own father’s killing, decades earlier, by the IRA. In seeking the truth behind both crimes, a web of deceit, blackmail and fragile reputations comes to light, as McLoughlin’s investigation reveals the explosive circumstances linking both crimes – and dark secrets are discovered which would destroy the judge’s legendary family name.
  Bestselling author Julie Parsons (Mary, Mary, I Saw You, The Hourglass) is back with a powerful, compelling, and darkly chilling novel of violence, shame and deceit.