“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.

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

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