“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, 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.