“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.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Publication: THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER by Andrew Hughes

I’m not sure how Andrew Hughes’ second novel, THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER (Doubleday), slipped under my radar – I thought his debut, THE CONVICTIONS OF JOHN DELAHUNT, was superb. Anyhoo, THE CORONER’S DAUGHTER is a historical mystery, and was published way back in February, with the blurb elves quoting thusly:
1816 was the year without a summer. A rare climatic event has brought frost to July, and a lingering fog casts a pall over a Dublin stirred by zealotry and civil unrest, torn between evangelical and rationalist dogma.
  Amid the disquiet, a young nursemaid in a pious household conceals a pregnancy and then murders her newborn. Rumours swirl about the identity of the child’s father, but before an inquest can be held, the maid is found dead. When Abigail Lawless, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Dublin’s coroner, by chance discovers a message from the maid’s seducer, she is drawn into a world of hidden meanings and deceit.
  An only child, Abigail has been raised amid the books and instruments of her father’s grim profession. Pushing against the restrictions society places on a girl her age, she pursues an increasingly dangerous investigation. As she leads us through dissection rooms and dead houses, Gothic churches and elegant ballrooms, a sinister figure watches from the shadows - an individual she believes has already killed twice, and is waiting to kill again ...
  Determined, resourceful and intuitive, Abigail Lawless emerges as a memorable young sleuth operating at the dawn of forensic science.
  For a review of THE CONVICTIONS OF JOHN DELAHUNT, clickety-click here

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Launch: I KNOW MY NAME by Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Carolyn Jess-Cooke launches her latest novel, I KNOW MY NAME (HarperCollins), at No Alibis next Thursday, August 3rd, at 6.30pm. Quoth the blurb elves:
Kommno Island, Greece: I don’t know where I am, who I am. Help me.
  A woman is washed up on a remote Greek island with no recollection of who she is or how she got there.
  Potter’s Lane, Twickenham, London: Elose Shelley is officially missing.
  Lochlan’s wife has vanished into thin air, leaving their toddler and twelve-week-old baby alone. Her money, car and passport are all in the house, with no signs of foul play. Every clue the police turn up means someone has told a lie
  Does a husband ever truly know his wife? Or a wife know her husband? Why is Elose missing? Why did she forget?
  For more on Carolyn Jess-Cooke, clickety-click here

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: THE LATE SHOW by Michael Connelly

The Late Show (Orion), Michael Connelly’s first novel to feature a new series character since Mickey Haller appeared in The Lincoln Lawyer (2005), opens with Renée Ballard and her partner John Jenkins taking a call to investigate credit card fraud. A mundane crime on the face of it, but par for the course: working ‘the late show’, i.e., the night shift, out of LA’s Hollywood Division, Ballard and Jenkins generally turn up to crime scenes, write their reports, then hand over the cases to the day shift the following morning.
  Connelly, however, is the creator of Harry Bosch, one of the most iconic protagonists in American crime fiction, and the deceptively routine opening quickly segues into a story that finds Ballard investigating the abduction and brutal assault of the transgender Ramona Ramone and a multiple shooting at a nightclub, during the course of which a waitress, Cynthia Haddel, is murdered simply because she is a potential witness.
  The names may have changed, then, but Connelly’s song remains essentially the same. The Late Show reads like a Bosch novel, as Connelly braids multiple investigations into his plot, driving the story onward with precise, measured prose that eschews sensationalism. Ballard, like the author, is an ex-journalist, whose ‘training and experience had given her skills that helped with [writing reports]. … She wrote short, clear sentences that gave momentum to the narrative of the investigation.’ Where Harry Bosch is a loner apart from his relationship with his daughter, Maddie, Ballard is a loner apart from her relationship with her grandmother, Tutu. Sleeping on the beach, showering and changing at the station, Ballard lives a minimalist existence that allows her dedicate herself to her work, believing that nothing should interfere with ‘the sacred bond that exists between homicide victims and the detectives who speak for them.’ Like Bosch, Ballard adheres to a Manichean philosophy: ‘big evil’ exists in the world, and her job is to prevent the spread of its ‘callous malignancy’.
  That said, Ballard is significantly more than a Bosch replacement or clone, at least for the time being (Connelly will publish the 20th Harry Bosch novel, Two Kinds of Truth, later this year). An absorbing character on her own terms, Ballard is morally disciplined but irreverently free-spirited as she goes down those mean streets (the reference to Chandler’s The Long Goodbye is no coincidence), and while she may plough a lone furrow broadly familiar to fans of Philip Marlowe, Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller, her gender allows Connelly to explore avenues closed off to his male protagonists. Her experience of institutionalised misogyny in the ranks of the LAPD may have hardened the previously idealistic Ballard, but it has not shut down her instinctive emotional responses; if anything, it has heightened her compassion for female victims of crime. Meanwhile, her sense of her own vulnerability and her attenuated awareness of possible threat, both of which feed into the story to a significant degree, are not qualities Bosch or Haller – or very few male protagonists in crime fiction, for that matter – would be likely to admit to out loud.
  Early in the novel, Ballard notes that the murdered waitress, Cynthia Haddel, was an aspiring actress who had played the part of ‘Girl at the Bar’ in an episode of the TV show Bosch, ‘which Ballard knew was based on the exploits of a now-retired LAPD detective.’ Harry Bosch has been hanging on by his fingernails for some years now, semi-retired and raging at the dying of the light, but it can only be a matter of time before Michael Connelly puts the old warhorse out to grass.
  That day may well provoke the kind of protests not witnessed since Arthur Conan Doyle tipped Sherlock Holmes off the Reichenbach Falls, but Connelly’s fans needn’t fret. In Renée Ballard, Connelly has created yet another potentially iconic tarnished knight of those perennially mean streets, a woman who understands, as her psychiatrist warns, that ‘if you go into darkness, the darkness goes into you,’ but who will defiantly stare down the abyss nonetheless. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

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