Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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, September 1, 2016


The Night Of, an eight-part series written by The Wire’s Richard Price and directed by Steven Zaillian, starts tonight (UK and Ireland) on Sky Atlantic. Adapted from the BBC series Criminal Justice (2008-09), it explores the impact of the US criminal justice system on a host of characters, all of whom revolve around the character of Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan, played by Riz Ahmed (right). The synopsis for Episode 1 runs as follows:
Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (Riz Ahmed) is a naive Pakistani-American college student living in Queens, New York. While using his father’s cab one night with intentions to attend a popular party, Naz picks up a young woman, Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black D’Elia). After a night of sex and drugs with the woman, Naz wakes and finds her stabbed to death; he has no recollection of what happened. Naz leaves the scene but is arrested for a minor traffic violation shortly after. At the station, he declines to answer calls to his mobile phone from his parents, who are worried about him and trying to reach him. When searching Naz, the police find a knife matching the suspected murder weapon in his pocket and witnesses identify him. Naz is interrogated by detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) and eventually asks for a lawyer, but one is not provided, until world-weary defense attorney John Stone (John Turturro) hears of the case and steps in to represent Naz.
  I watched the first three episodes of The Night Of to preview the show for RTE’s Arena programme, and once I was past the time-worn trope of ‘Naz wakes and finds her stabbed to death’, I found myself enthralled. Bracingly cynical, superbly characterised (if I’m ever arrested for a crime I’m not sure I’ve committed, Bill Camp’s ‘subtle beast’ Detective Box is the man I want investigating the case) and brilliantly acted, it’s a multi-faceted exploration of how getting caught up in the impersonal machinery of the justice system is a crushing experience for everyone involved. If you liked the Serial podcast or Making of a Murderer, or you’re a fan of the Scandi-Noir TV series, I’m pretty sure you’ll like this.
  For my review of The Night Of, clickety-click here. For all the details of the show, clickety-click here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Reading: THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue at Trinity College

Following the huge success of her novel Room, Emma Donoghue’s The Wonder tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl who stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story. Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, The Wonder – inspired by numerous European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ between the sixteenth century and the twentieth – is a psychological thriller about a child’s murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul.

Emma Donoghue was born in Dublin and now lives in Canada with her family. She has written several novels including Frog Music, The Sealed Letter, Stir-Fry, and the best-seller and widely acclaimed novel Room, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prize. Emma adapted the novel for the big screen and the movie Room was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture.

Join Emma Donoghue as she reads from and discusses her latest novel The Wonder
In The Edmund Burke Theatre, Trinity College on Saturday 17th September, 2016 at 2pm.

This is a free event, but booking is essential here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Review: THE CONSTANT SOLDIER by William Ryan

William Ryan’s debut, The Holy Thief (2010), was the first of a series featuring Captain Alexei Korolev, a police detective operating in Moscow during the 1930s. His subsequent novels, The Bloody Meadow (2011) and The Twelfth Department (2013), confirmed that Ryan was a crime writing talent to watch, his unconventional police procedurals given a Kafkaesque twist as Korolev struggled to assimilate the genre’s notions of justice and truth into Stalin’s grotesque interpretation of same.
  The Constant Soldier (Mantle), then, is something of a departure for Ryan. A standalone novel, it’s set in an idyllic Silesian village in the autumn of 1944, a territory once Polish but now German – although everyone knows, with the Russian Army advancing rapidly from the East, that it won’t be German for much longer. Paul Brandt, a Wehrmacht soldier, returns home a decorated hero from the Eastern Front, invalided out of the fighting after losing an arm, his face so burnt his own father almost fails to recognise him when he collects him at the train station. His family are outraged when Paul accepts a position as steward at a ‘rest hut’ – in reality a luxurious villa – serving the Nazi officers who work at the nearby ‘work camp’, but Paul’s apparently docile acceptance of the status quo masks a vague desire to sabotage the German war effort.
  Paul, we learn, joined the Wehrmacht as the lesser of two evils when, charged with subversive activities before the war, he was offered the choice of the army or prison. When he realises that Judith, a fellow plotter, has spent the war in slave labour, and now works at the rest hut, Paul acknowledges that he has ‘wrongs he had to put right.’ But trapped as he is between the implacable evil of Nazi Germany and the mercilessly irresistible force of the oncoming Russians, what can one man do?
  There are comparisons to be drawn between William Ryan’s Captain Korolev novels and The Constant Soldier, the most obvious being that both feature good men trying to do the right thing in a world where even basic notions such as ‘good’ and ‘right’ have been perverted by the ideologies of megalomaniac dictators. But while the reader can be fairly sure that Korolev, as the protagonist of a series, will survive and thrive, Paul Brandt is a much more vulnerable character. Essentially a self-appointed spy operating behind enemy lines, Brandt has the wounds suffered on the battlefield in his favour – ‘behind his frozen face he could be anyone’ – and yet he is operating at a time when suspicion is the very oxygen of a political system. As a result, and despite Ryan’s deceptively gentle pacing, the tale quickly becomes an emotional rollercoaster that sustains an increasingly tense mood of impending disaster throughout.
  Paul Brandt’s isn’t the only perspective we get in The Constant Soldier, however. We also see the dog days of the war through the eyes of the idealistic Polya, a tank driver in the vanguard of the Russian advance; and those of Obersturmf├╝hrer Neumann, the commandant of the ‘rest hut’, a long-serving Party member who secretly listens to the banned Jewish composer Mendelssohn and battles personal demons as he tries to maintain a semblance of order in the growing chaos. The multiple perspectives lend themselves to a subtle and sympathetic portrayal of the characters and their conflict, and with the shadow of nearby Auschwitz casting a long shadow across the story, Ryan is particularly acute when he deals with the subject of how ordinary people allowed themselves to engage in monstrous acts. “Mostly,” Neumann observes to himself, “no one had ever imagined it would come to this. Until it had, of course.” For his part, and despite being the closet thing the novel gets to a conventional hero, Paul Brandt is as guilty of brutal depredations as any German veteran of the Eastern Front. “When everyone else is doing something,” he tells his despairing father, “you end up doing it too – without thinking about it. Sometimes terrible things.”
  The Constant Soldier is a beguiling blend, a spy novel-cum-historical thriller that offers a gripping but nuanced narrative set against the horrors of the absolute abuse of absolute power. It’s a bleak but rewarding novel about guilt, personal and shared, and taking responsibility for your actions, even if doing so offers no possibility of reward. “What did it matter anyway?” Neumann asks. “Once you had killed even one innocent person, then the number becomes irrelevant … They were both of them guilty past the point of any form of redemption – on any scale.” ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Launch: THE CONSTANT SOLDIER by William Ryan

Monday, August 29, 2016

Publication: THE BLUE POOL by Siobhan MacDonald

Siobhan MacDonald published her debut thriller TWISTED RIVER earlier this year, and she quickly follows it up with another standalone suspense novel, THE BLUE POOL (Canelo). To wit:
What really happened that weekend?
  Four friends go to a remote cabin one summer. Only three return.
  Life is good for university friends Sarah, Ruth, Charlotte, and Kathy: it’s summer, exams are over, and they’re escaping to a cabin by the Blue Pool. But when Sarah then disappears without a trace, life for the others will never be the same again.
  Twenty-five years later, a man walks into a police station, claiming to know something about the missing girl. Suddenly, the three women – now estranged – all become suspects. Forced to revisit that horrifying weekend, they must confront buried memories and decades-old misgivings. For not everything was as it seemed, and the greater the secret, the deeper it lies…
  From the author of the acclaimed Twisted River, this is another ingenious and unpredictable psychological thriller. A mesmerising exploration of loyalty, friendship, and the corrosive effects of guilt, The Blue Pool will appeal to readers of Clare Mackintosh, Paula Hawkins, and B A Paris.
  THE BLUE POOL was published in e-book format on August 26th. For all the details, clickety-click here