Book Review

Book Review: Black Irish by Stephan Talty

Another guest review from my Dad today, this time a book that took him a little outside of his usual reading comfort zone.

BlackIrishIt was only the first lie…

As the snow drives down and the full force of a Buffalo winter makes itself felt, a man’s body is found. Barely recognisable, the only clues the police have are the ‘1’ carved into the victim’s face and the killer’s sinister calling card, a plastic toy monkey.

This is ‘The County’ – the 27th county of Ireland – a city cocooned in secrets, suspicion and blood feuds, where the residents will do anything to protect their own. And for Detective Absalom Kearney, this case is her one chance to prove to a community more fiercely secretive than ever, that even the most heinous of murderers can be stopped.

But as her investigation develops and the killer starts sending her cryptic messages, Absalom finds herself in a race not only to halt them but also to stop The County’s residents exacting their own form of justice.

Because at the heart of this community there is the darkness peculiar to those forgotten by society, and this darkness will affect Absalom’s life in ways she could never have imagined..

So, having previously said that I don’t care so much for non-UK based crime books, what am I doing reviewing this?

I agreed reluctantly to ‘give it a go’. This on the promise from my daughter that it would broaden my reading horizon. Well she was right, but it did not cure my prejudices completely.

The book is set in Buffalo, but within an Irish community, which presumably is factually accurate, although I did not check. It links back to Ireland so partly qualifies my UK only preference, and touches on some uncomfortable connections and topics around the troubles during the 1970/80s.

The book was enjoyably quick paced, which was curiously in line with the text in places, with a lot of fast car journeys over treacherous ice covered roads. This had me feeling fearful for the main character Absalom Kearney, a female detective returning to the ‘County’ after years away.

Absalom was strangely vulnerable at times, entering dangerous situations alone when any sane person would have taken back-up. She narrowly avoided serious injury or death. This however was all integral to the plot, so her maverick approach could be overlooked even though I was led to worry for her at times.

The sub characters were believable and sufficiently interesting and the relationship between Absalom and her father was a major factor in the whole story. There were some interesting plot points which helped to keep you guessing until revealed and the whole lot was wrapped up in some pretty gory deaths.These had to be described in great, and sometimes stomach churning detail, in order to support the overall significance of the links between the murders.

In summary, I read it and I found the psychological and crime aspects very enjoyable, but as I don’t do blood and guts in real life, was not entirely happy about that aspect of the story. That is more about me than the book, and if you like a deep thriller, and can deal with that, this is for you.

Black Irish is published by Headline. Whilst he was provided with a copy of the book for review all opinions expressed are my Dad’s.

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