“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.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Launch: THE THERAPY HOUSE by Julie Parsons

It has been far too long since Julie Parsons last published a novel, so I’m delighted to see that her latest, THE THERAPY HOUSE, will be published by New Island Books early next month. To wit:

New Island Books
requests the pleasure of your company to celebrate the launch of The Therapy House by Julie Parsons on
Tuesday, May 2nd at 7.00pm
in DLR LexIcon
Dun Laoghaire
Co. Dublin
  To mark the publication of her first novel in nearly ten years, Julie will be in conversation with fellow writer and journalist Declan Hughes.

  Please note: this is a seated event. Please arrive not later than 6.45pm for a 7pm start. Tickets are free but booking is essential via Eventbrite.

  ‘Julie Parsons takes the psychological suspense thriller to places it rarely dares to go ...’ The New York Times
On Sundays peace was restored. He would lie down, dream and remember. He would enjoy. And later on the bell would ring. He would get up and walk downstairs. He would open the front door. And his life would come to an end ...

Garda Inspector Michael McLoughlin is trying to enjoy his retirement – doing a bit of PI work on the side, meeting up with former colleagues, fixing up a grand old house in a genteel Dublin suburb near the sea.

Then he discovers the body of his neighbour, a retired judge – brutally murdered, shot through the back of the neck, his face mutilated beyond recognition. McLoughlin finds himself drawn into the murky past of the murdered judge, which leads him back to his own father’s killing, decades earlier, by the IRA. In seeking the truth behind both crimes, a web of deceit, blackmail and fragile reputations comes to light, as McLoughlin’s investigation reveals the explosive circumstances linking both crimes – and dark secrets are discovered which would destroy the judge’s legendary family name.
  Bestselling author Julie Parsons (Mary, Mary, I Saw You, The Hourglass) is back with a powerful, compelling, and darkly chilling novel of violence, shame and deceit.

Friday, April 28, 2017

News: Adrian McKinty Takes Home An Edgar

Well, he did and he didn’t – Adrian McKinty’s RAIN DOGS (Serpent’s Tail) won the Edgar for Best Original Paperback at last night’s award ceremony in New York, but McKinty himself was absent and very likely, as Sean Duffy might have it, across the sheugh. Which sounds more painful than it really is. Anyway, the heartiest of congrats to Adrian McKinty, the latest Irish winner of an Edgar award, for this fully deserved recognition of his Sean Duffy series …
  For a review of RAIN DOGS, clickety-click here

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Irish Times’ Crime Fiction Column

Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me (Penguin Michael Joseph, €14.99) opens with teenager Milly entering a foster home, having survived the horrors perpetrated by her mother, Ruth. Scheduled to testify against Ruth, good Milly understands that her mother is a monster who must pay for her crimes; but as the bullying at her new school reaches a crisis point, bad Milly finds herself wondering about the extent to which her mother’s perverted nurturing has poisoned her nature. Land’s debut is a genuinely unsettling tale that brings to mind Megan Abbott’s novels and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin, as Land – previously a child and adolescent mental health nurse – delivers a bracing take on a disturbed teenager’s perception of good and evil. References to Peter Pan and The Lord of the Flies recur throughout, emphasising the extent to which Milly is a lost innocent abroad in a world where young adolescents engineer their own reality, a bleak and pitiless society where might is right and a flair for cruelty confers authority. A novel of complex motivations that will test readers’ capacity for empathy, Good Me, Bad Me is already a strong contender for debut of the year.
  Constance Kopp, whom Amy Stewart first introduced in Girl Waits with Gun (2015), is one of the most aptly monikered protagonists in crime fiction, not least because the real-life Kopp was New Jersey’s first lady deputy sheriff. Set in 1915, Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Scribe, €14.99) opens with Constance allowing a conman, the self-styled Baron von Matthesius, to escape from prison, a lapse which provides critics of the newly established role of female deputy with plenty of ammunition, but could also result in Constance’s boss, Sheriff Heath, going to prison. Suspended from normal duties, but determined to put things right, Constance sets out to track down the Baron. Constance Kopp should be a fascinating character as she embarks on her twin battles with male prejudice and the criminals of New Jersey, particularly as Amy Stewart’s meticulous research provides the reader with a wealth of period detail. Despite being rooted in real events, however, the plot is a plodding affair, and matters aren’t helped by Stewart’s staid prose (“The two of them sat in the sheriff’s office looking about as unhappy to be with one another as two men ever have.”) and too many minor characters devoting far too much time to remarking upon the novelty of a female deputy sheriff.
  Julia Crouch’s fifth novel, Her Husband’s Lover (Headline, €17.99), is a delightfully lurid slice of domestic noir, which opens with Louisa Williams fleeing from her ‘grade A, one-hundred-per-cent, undiluted bastard’ husband Sam in a dramatic car-chase that ends with a fatal collision in which Sam kills himself and their two children. The tragic scenario is compounded when Louisa emerges from her rehabilitation to discover that Sam’s vengeful mistress, Sophie, is pregnant and determined to destroy what is left of Louisa’s life. Julia Crouch coined the term ‘domestic noir’ to describe crime fiction’s latest sub-genre, and this latest offering is unlikely to disappoint fans, being a full-throttle romp through the paranoid delusions of a cast of grotesques, each more repellent than the last. The tone errs on the shrill side as the story strives to establish each of its narrators as unreliable, with the characters deliberately pitched as too perfect / too obsessed / too evil to ring entirely true, but it’s a hugely addictive read as Julia Crouch, having set up an apparently open-and-shut case of domestic abuse, gleefully rips to shreds both the characters’ pretensions and the reader’s expectations.
  E.O. Chirovici’s The Book of Mirrors begins with literary editor Peter Katz receiving a partial manuscript from Richard Flynn, which documents the murder of Princeton psychologist Professor Joseph Wieder but only hints at the identity of his killer. When Katz tries to contact Flynn, however, he discovers that the author has died without revealing the whereabouts of the full manuscript, leading Katz to commission freelance journalist John Keller to uncover the truth … A prolific author in his native Romanian, The Book of Mirrors is E.O. Chirovici’s first novel written in English, an intriguing Russian doll of a narrative which passes the mystery of Professor Wieder’s murder on to a number of investigators. The prose is stolidly functional, but Chirovici’s story nevertheless offers an intriguing whydunit underpinned by a treatise on memory, as a number of witnesses create a cat’s-cradle of conflicting testimony designed to keep the reader guessing to the very end. That said, even the most generous reader will likely baulk at one character’s suggestion that the story is reminiscent of Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Chirovici’s invoking of ‘the great French writer’ and his remembrance of things past is at best ill-advised.
  Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail, €15.99) is the sixth in Adrian McKinty’s increasingly impressive series to feature Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective working for the RUC during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’. The mystery begins with a bizarre murder, when drug dealer Francis Deauville is shot to death with a crossbow, but when Duffy starts to wonder why an ‘independent’ drug dealer who has been paying protection to the paramilitaries has been assassinated in such an exotic fashion, he finds himself assailed on all sides. Persecuted by Internal Affairs and fending off IRA attacks, Duffy digs deep into Northern Ireland’s recent past to uncover a tale of collusion and unsolved murder. The plot is as tortuously twisting as McKinty’s readers have come to expect but it’s the tone that proves the novel’s most enjoyable aspect, as Duffy delivers a first-person tale of cheerfully grim fatalism and Proddy-Taig banter, the story chock-a-block with cultural references, from NWA and Kylie Minogue to Miami Vice and The Myth of Sisyphus. ~ Declan Burke

  This column was first published in the Irish Times.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Patricia Gibney

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

Misery by Stephen King.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

No time for pleasures – guilty or otherwise. Most of my reading is crime and thrillers, detective based. But I do like the occasional short story.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Two really – getting my agent, Ger Nichol was, for me, the first validation of my writing. Then, of course, signing a four-book deal with Bookouture.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly. For an Irish-based novel, Disappeared by Anthony J. Quinn.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?

Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller. It’s not set in Ireland, but Jax lives in Enfield, just down the road! For an Irish-based novel, Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips.

Worst thing about being a writer?
For me it’s finding the discipline to edit my own work.

Best thing about being a writer?
I get to make things up. I can use my imagination and be creative.

The pitch for your book is …
When a woman’s body is found in Ragmullin cathedral, and hours later a man’s body is found hanging from a tree, DI Lottie Parker is called in to lead the investigation. The trail leads her to a former children’s home with a dark connection to her own family history. As she begins to link the current victims to unsolved murders decades old, two teenage boys go missing. She must close in on the killer before they strike again, but in doing so is she putting her own children in terrifying danger? Lottie is about to come face to face with a twisted soul who has a very warped idea of justice.

Who is on your shoulder as you write?

My husband, Aidan, who died almost eight years ago after a short illness, aged just 49. He has been with me in spirit every tap of the keyboard. Missed but cherished.

Who are you reading right now?
Robert Dugoni. My writing has been compared to his and I must admit I hadn’t read any of his work. So I’m catching up now. I didn’t realise he was a US bestseller!

God appears and says you can only write or read. Which would it be?

Write, of course. (However, I might need to be able to read a little in order to edit what I’ve written).

The three best words to describe your own writing …

Dark. Mysterious. Gripping. (I took those words from a review). Though my editor calls it ‘creepy’.

THE MISSING ONES by Patricia Gibney is published by Bookouture.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: THE PIGEON TUNNEL by John le Carré

Despite half a century in the public eye as the author of 23 bestselling novels, John le Carré is still hiding in plain sight. Second nature for an old spook, of course – but when we speak of the legendary John le Carré, the ex-MI6 intelligence officer and subsequently the author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, the Smiley Trilogy, A Perfect Spy and The Tailor of Panama, it’s wise to remember that a ‘legend’ is the name given to a spy’s background and biography.
  Le Carré, interrogating his own memory, doesn’t exactly confine himself to name, rank and serial number in The Pigeon Tunnel (Penguin Viking), but seasoned fans may be disappointed by the lack of new revelations (with eight of the 38 chapters previously published in newspapers, journals and magazines, there is much that may also be familiar). Last year’s biography of le Carré by Adam Sisman was a much more informative affair, particularly on le Carré’s career as a spy, although it’s only fair to point out, as the subtitle suggests, that this book wasn’t conceived as a conventional memoir. “These are true stories told from memory,” he tells us early on, “to which you are entitled to ask, what is truth, and what is memory to the creative writer? […] To the creative writer, fact is raw material, not his taskmaster but his instrument, and his job is to make it sing.”
  Indeed, much of this book is taken up with this idea of transforming raw material – some of the most absorbing chapters are those where le Carré allows readers a glimpse into the formative stages of his books, taking them on the journeys he embarked on himself for the purpose of research. The stand-out chapters in this regard are those he titles ‘The Theatre of the Real’, recounting his experience of travelling to the Middle East before writing The Little Drummer Girl, during which he danced with Yasser Arafat, then the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, visited an Israeli military prison in the Negev Desert, and agonised over the political direction the novel should take.
  Yasser Arafat isn’t the only famous name to pop up in these pages – the chapter on le Carré drinking with Richard Burton on the Dublin set of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold is darkly hilarious, while the chapter titled ‘Alec Guinness’ is a touching tribute to the actor who played George Smiley in the BBC’s classic 1979 adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.
  Where The Pigeon Tunnel truly scores, however, is when le Carré moves in the latter stages from the public to the personal, to write about his fraught relationship with Ronnie Cornwell, “conman, fantasist, occasional jailbird, and my father,” a man who “rubbed shoulders with the Kray Twins” and may well have been physically violent with the young David (whose mother, Olive, ran away from Ronnie when David was a child). At his father’s funeral, le Carré tells us, he was comforted by a stalwart member of ‘Ronnie’s Court’: “We was all bent, son. But your dad was very, very bent indeed.”
  Again, some of the material may already be familiar to le Carré’s fans (particularly those who have read the novels A Perfect Spy and Single and Single), but there’s a poignant quality to some of the later chapters here, as the author struggles to come to terms with his father’s legacy: “Graham Greene tells us that childhood is the credit balance of the writer. By that measure at least, I was born a millionaire.”
  It is certainly not a comprehensive account, but The Pigeon Tunnel is consistently entertaining as David Cornwell / John le Carré attempts to make sense of a life simultaneously lived out in public and in the shadows. “As a maker of fictions,” says the old spy and veteran puppet-master, “I invent versions of myself, never the real thing, if it exists.” ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: THE HORSEMAN by Tim Pears

Opening in rural Devon in 1911, The Horseman (Bloomsbury) is a bildungsroman centring on Leo Sercombe, a young schoolboy who lives on the estate of Lord Prideaux. The son of a carter, and old enough now to help with the horses, Leo is attuned to nature’s rhythms and knowledgeable enough on the Bible to recognise the prelapsarian potential of his surroundings. “He might have been the first human upon the earth,” Leo muses as he walks home from school, “striding through the garden. He doubted whether there were any places so beautiful in all the planets known or unknown to man, or to God.”
  Previously the winner of the Hawthornden Prize and the Lannan Literary Award, Tim Pears has built his reputation on novels that employ the family dynamic to explore social issues. The Horseman, his ninth novel and the first in a proposed trilogy, situates the Sercombe family in an apparently idyllic and self-contained world in which the horrors of WWI are unimaginable and history-making events (Home Rule, the miners’ strikes, ‘the Vandals and Goths’ of the suffragette movement) are little more than vague rumours. Rural Devon is a place where ‘things’ll carry on one way or another,’ as Albert Sercombe reassures his wife, but Leo’s fall from grace, precipitated by the passion for horses he shares with the haughty young Charlotte Prideaux, is the inevitable consequence of Leo transgressing against the social structure of his time and place.
  While the bare bones of the plot are evocative of Hardy, The Horseman is a novel in which plot is little more than a skeletal structure that allows Tim Pears to flesh out a vibrant, vividly detailed Devon. Leo, our guide, has a gift for observation, and is a rudimentary philosopher to boot. Thus, when he watches a hare approach him across a field, Leo is drawn to the conclusion that, “each species of animal had its own peculiarities of vision. This world we surveyed was not was it was but as it was seen, in many different guises.”
  The story proceeds by way of chapters divided into the months of the year, each month devoted to an important event on the farm: the ploughing, the sowing and reaping, the threshing; foals being born, pigs slaughtered. Unsentimental in tone, the story is richly descriptive as Pears sketches in the detail of a community’s symbiotic relationship to the land, as man imposes his will on chaotic nature: “No two fields among them were of like size or configuration. No tracks ran straight but dipped and wove around the tumps and hummocks of land. […] Streams meandered in no discernible direction, cutting deep narrow gullies here, trickling over gravel beds there. Erratic walkways crisscrossed the estate. The boy’s father Albert told him that when God created this corner of the world He’d just helped himself to a well-earned tipple.”
  Pears is at his best, however, in charting Leo’s abiding love for horses, an instinctive devotion handed down from generation to generation. “He gazed upon the sets of waggon harness […] Plough strings, cart saddles, cobble trees and swingletrees, each hung on wooden pegs in its allotted place. These were the icons of beauty to the boy.” As young as he is, Leo is sure of his destiny: “He knew that he would work with horses all his life […]. He doubted whether one life was long enough to know all there was to know of horses.” The timeless nature of man’s relationship with the horse is confirmed when Leo watches his father “ride the mower … like one of those Canaanites who lived in the valley land and had chariots of iron.” When Leo finally races a full-grown horse, he is transported: “The boy did not know that such exhilaration existed, save for in the last days when young men shall see visions ...”
  Seeded with deliciously archaic fragments of language (‘dawcock’, ‘zart’, ‘guddled’, ‘gatfer’), The Horseman is itself an exhilarating vision, a bittersweet elegy for the innocent certainties of an agrarian world before the industrialised horrors of the 20th century come crashing down. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Event: Readers’ Day at Airfield Estate

I’m very much looking forward to the Readers’ Day event at Airfield Estate, Dundrum, which takes place on March 18th, when I’ll be hosting a conversation – i.e., trying to get a word in edgeways – between Jane Casey (right), Alex Marwood and Sam Blake, who will (all going to plan) be delivering the low-down skinny on why their books are so page-turningly addictive.
  The day’s events begin at 10am, with the crime contingent onstage from 2pm-3pm. For details of all the day’s events, including how to book your tickets, clickety-click here