“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. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Event: The Franco-Irish Literary Festival

The 16th Franco-Irish Literary Festival takes place from April 24th – 26th, with the theme this year Crime Fiction / Festival du polar:
“The sustained popularity of the crime novel has long shown that the genre cannot be dismissed as second-class literature. From the early works of Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th century, to the recent TV series The Fall, by way of the French literary collection “Le Masque”, launched in 1927, the crime novel has always moved with the times, and today, in its many different forms, its reach extends across all layer of society. In the 1970s, the slang term “polar” was coined in France. Initially referring to the crime film genre, the term was soon universally adopted to describe the crime novel. The “polar”, this multifaceted and seldom anodyne genre, period-specific and bearing witness to all the power of the pen, is surely every bit as enigmatic and complex as the crimes and mysteries it presents to its readers.”
  Contributing authors include Stuart Neville, Sinead Crowley, John Banville and Cormac Millar on the Irish side, while France is represented by Hervé Le Corre, Chantal Pelletier, Jean-Bernard Pouy and Didier Daeninckx. The weekend will also incorporate a Crime Fiction Masterclass at the Irish Writers’ Centre hosted by Jean-Bernard Pouy.
  The events take place in Dublin Castle and at Alliance Française. For all the details on the scheduling, and how to book places, clickety-click here

Competition: CAN ANYBODY HELP ME? by Sinead Crowley

Sinead Crowley’s debut CAN ANYBODY HELP ME? (Quercus) has just been published in paperback, and to celebrate Sinead is offering a signed copy to one lucky reader. First, the blurb elves:
It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name but she thought of her as a friend. Or, at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin.
  Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.
  When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?
  But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?
  To be in with a chance to win a signed copy, just answer the following question:
What is the title of Sinead Crowley’s second novel, to be published later this year?
  Answers to dbrodb[at]gmail.com by 5pm on Friday, March 6th please, and don’t forget to include a contact email address. Et bon chance, mes amis

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pre-Publication: THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville’s latest, THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND (Harvill Secker), is the first in a new series to feature DCI Serena Flanagan, who previously appeared in THE FINAL SILENCE, a novel currently shortlisted for an Edgar award. Quoth the blurb elves:
When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.
  DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.
  Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.
  When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.
  THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND is published on June 26th. For more, clickety-click here

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Interview: Adrian McKinty

Jason Steger interviewed Adrian McKinty for the Sydney Morning Herald last week, most of the conversation centring on the Sean Duffy series of novels, of which GUN STREET GIRL (Serpent’s Tail) is the latest. Sample quote:
It was after Dead I May Well Be, his New York novel, came out in 2004 that McKinty first considered writing about Northern Ireland. He had originally pitched a cop show set in ‘70s Belfast along the lines of The Sweeney.
  “Seventies nostalgia with the added frisson of the Troubles in the background. They couldn’t have been more horrified. This guy said ‘we won’t be able to sell it in Northern Ireland, nobody wants to watch anything to do with the Troubles; we can never sell it across the water in England – they just want to forget it ever happened. And as for selling it to the US, that’s a joke; they have a very nostalgic view of what Ireland is’.”
  Although there had been novels about Belfast and the Troubles – Brian Moore’s Lies of Silence and Glenn Patterson’s The International, for example – everyone he asked told him the same thing: don’t touch the Troubles. And he took the message on board for years. But a few years back he had his epiphany – the thing that no one wants you to write about is exactly what he should be writing.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Monday, March 2, 2015

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Steve Cavanagh

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?
There’s a few that spring to mind; The Black Echo by Michael Connelly, Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris, The Killing Kind by John Connolly and I’d even throw in The Firm by John Grisham. I think The Firm is one hell of a thriller with great themes running all the way through it. It’s very much a class warfare book, and a modern dissection of the American dream.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
One of my favourite fictional characters is Horace Rumpole. He believes in the presumption of innocence, Legal Aid, cheap Claret and teasing judges. I can’t fault that. I think John Mortimer is often overlooked in the crime fiction canon but I’d put the Rumpole of the Bailey series right up there with Holmes – it’s that important. In later books Mortimer even used Rumpole like a moral scalpel for society by examining ASBO’s and knee jerk anti-terrorism legislation. It would mean I’d have to put up with She Who Must Be Obeyed. Maybe I should rethink that one?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t believe there are guilty pleasures when reading. If I enjoy something and I think it’s good then I don’t feel guilty about it. But I know what you mean. I’d probably say the late David Gemmell, as he is my favourite fantasy writer. He wrote fantasy novels, but wrote them as thrillers. David Gemmell was labelled as writing “heroic fantasy” which puts some readers off as they think it’s all about white knights on horses rescuing damsels in distress. I would say Gemmell was the master of unheroic fantasy – as most of the supposed heroes in his novels are almost as bad as the villains. Character is the key in his books and doesn’t spend the first 50 pages with world building. The first two books of his Celtic quadrilogy are stunning page turners. Gemmell also wrote the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. Read Legend – Gemmell’s hero, Druss, is basically a sixty-year old Jack Reacher with an axe. I can see why some might think this a guilty pleasure – I just see it as pleasure.

Most satisfying writing moment?
There is a scene in the second Eddie Flynn novel, The Plea, where the book shifts up several gears in a single sentence. It’s a moment that nobody sees coming and sets up a really tense action sequence. I think it’s probably the best thing I’ve written.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
I can’t recommend just one. The latest novel from my host, would be high on my recommended reads list, as would Brian McGilloway’s Little Girl Lost, Stuart Neville’s The Twelve, Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series and Gerard Brennan’s Undercover. I read Gerard’s last year and I thought it was the best thing he’s written, I loved it.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think Stuart Neville’s The Twelve will make a great movie. And I really hope that does get made as it would transfer brilliantly to the screen. If I had my wish list – HBO would take a Charlie Parker book and adapt it over a whole season. That would be awesome.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best thing is when someone reads your book and tells you they enjoyed it. Worst thing? The worry. I constantly worry about everything; the writing, promoting, the whole shebang is like a brilliant, exciting but nerve wracking dream.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s my debut novel, The Defence.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren't that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.

Who are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished Lee Child’s Never Go Back, and I’m starting CJ Sansom’s Lamentation. I’m a real sucker for the Matthew Shardlake novels.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. I love to read but most of all I enjoy reading to my kids. Yeah, that’s the best. I couldn’t give that up.

The three best words to describe your own writing are…?
Fast. Tense. Funny. The three words I’d use to describe my process of writing are – Shit. Noooo. AARRGHHHH!!!!

Steve Cavanagh’s THE DEFENCE will be launched at No Alibis bookstore on March 12.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2015

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles to be published in 2015, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis throughout the year. To wit:

GUN STREET GIRL by Adrian McKinty (January 8)

MARKED OFF by Don Cameron (February 9)
TAKEN FOR DEAD by Graham Masterton (February 12)

THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh (March 12)
THE LAKE by Sheena Lambert (March 19)

A SONG OF SHADOWS by John Connolly (April 9)
KILLING WAYS by Alex Barclay (April 9)
THE ORGANISED CRIMINAL by Jarlath Gregory (April 9)

THE NIGHT GAME by Frank Golden (May 28)

FREEDOM’S CHILD by Jax Miller (June 2)
ONLY WE KNOW by Karen Perry (June 4)
AFTER THE FIRE by Jane Casey (June 18)
THE SILENT DEAD by Claire McGowan (June 18)
ALOYSIUS TEMPO by Jason Johnson (June 25)
THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by Stuart Neville (June 26)

GREEN HELL by Ken Bruen (July 7)
BARLOW BY THE BOOK by John McAllister (July 21)

PRESERVE THE DEAD by Brian McGilloway (August 6)
A BEAUTIFUL DEATH by Louise Phillips (August TBC)

A DEADLY GAMBLE by Pat Mullan (September TBC)

DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH by Andrea Carter (October 1)
EVEN THE DEAD by Benjamin Black (October 15)

DEAD SECRET by Ava McCarthy (November 19)

ARE YOU WATCHING ME? by Sinead Crowley (date TBC)

  If you’re an Irish crime writer with a book on the way, please feel free to drop me a line (including details on dates, publisher, etc.) if you’d like to be included in the ongoing updates.

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Publication: YOU, ME AND OTHER PEOPLE by Fionnuala Kearney

On occasion we stray beyond our self-imposed remit of Irish crime fiction here at CAP Towers, and it’s in that spirit that I mention that Fionnuala Kearney published her debut novel, YOU, ME AND OTHER PEOPLE (Harper) this week. Quoth the blurb elves:
  But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?
  For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.
  You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.
  And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?
  For fans of Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and David Nicholls.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, February 27, 2015

Exhibition: Ger Holland at dlr Lexicon

I’m not entirely sure why I look so constipated in this photograph with Jo Nesbo, although it’s possible that I’m being slowly strangled by that rare, multi-coloured Dun Laoghaire python that has leapt onto my neck. Anyway, the pic was taken by the very talented Ger Holland, who has become synonymous with photography at literary events in Ireland over least few years. Ger has her first exhibition of photographs next week, Tuesday March 3rd, and as you’d imagine, she’s delighted about it all:
“I’m delighted to welcome you all to my first exhibition in the dlr Lexicon in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin. The exhibition features 40 photographs that I have taken of writers at the Mountains to Sea dlr Book Festivals over the last three years and from 16 different dlr Library Voices events, including Jo Nesbo, Donna Tartt, Ian McEwan and Armistead Maupin.”
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Thursday, February 26, 2015


I reviewed Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU earlier this month in the Irish Times crime fiction column, a book that reminded me in many ways of Megan Abbott’s THE END OF EVERYTHING, which is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last decade or so. The review of Celeste’s book runs a lot like this:
Opening in 1977 in Middlewood, Ohio, Celeste Ing’s debut Everything I Never Told You (Black Friars) begins with a dramatic declaration: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” The 16-year-old Chinese-American daughter of James and Marilyn Lee, Lydia is discovered drowned in a local lake, but as the police investigation proceeds it remains unclear as to whether Lydia died as a result of murder, suicide or a tragic accident. Indeed, rather than advance the plot to the point where a motive and perpetrator are revealed, Celeste Ing is far more interested in exploring who Lydia Lee really was behind the various masks she wore to deceive her parents, her siblings and her high school friends. Ethnicity and assimilation (or the lack of it) is crucial to Lydia’s story: James Lee is a Chinese-American professor of American culture who has spent his entire life trying to blend in to a society that instinctively labels him as an outsider, while her mother, Marilyn, was frustrated in her youth in her ambition to become a doctor, and channels her aspirations through her daughter. What emerges is a heartbreaking portrait of a teenage girl struggling to cope with unbearable and conflicting pressures brought to bear by her parents, while also trying to deal with the more prosaic but no less difficult issues of adolescence, in a story that brings to mind Megan Abbott’s subversive take on the crime novel. Ranging back and forth from the 1970s to the 1950s – when James and Marilyn first met, and the seeds of Lydia’s tragedy were first sown – Everything I Never Told You is an affecting, compelling tale of quiet desperation. ~ Declan Burke
  For the rest of the column, which includes the current offerings from Paula Hawkins, Harri Nykänen and Rob Kitchin, clickety-click here

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Launch: DEADLY INTENT by Anna Sweeney

Deirdre Purcell will launch Anna Sweeney’s DEADLY INTENT (Severn House) on Friday, February 27th, at the Anam Cara Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat, Beara, Co. Cork, at 8.30pm. Quoth the blurb elves:
Maureen lies unconscious on a lonely track. Her husband blames a fellow holidaymaker at Nessa McDermott’s country house on Ireland’s enchanting Beara Peninsula. Two days later, a man’s body is found, strangled and dumped. Amid a frenzy of police, media and family pressures, former journalist Nessa has to find her own answers - but meanwhile, ambitious young policeman Redmond Joyce is also hellbent on identifying the murderer, and conflict between them grows as they close in on the horrifying truth. Translated from the Gaelic, this novel introduces a talented author with keen observation and detail, and marks the beginning of a series with Nessa and her ambitious policeman acquaintance.
  For those of you unfamiliar with the Beara Peninsula, Anna has written a piece for Writing.ie why the peninsula is the perfect setting for a murder mystery, with a sample running thusly:
“For my own crime novel Deadly Intent, my location of choice was the Beara Peninsula on Ireland’s wild Atlantic edge. On a coastline famed for its fifteen hundred miles of dramatic headlands, craggy mountains and sweeping beaches, Beara has some of the most magnificent scenery of all. And the more I got to know it, the more I could imagine writing about it.
  “The trick was not to let all that the scenic beauty turn into a travelogue. The peninsula’s spectacular coves, remote valleys and secluded country lanes are havens of peace and tranquillity; but for my purposes, they could also hide grim and guilty secrets as well as victims’ bodies. In Beara as in most rural places, it’s normal to know your neighbours’ business; but in the face of fictional murder, a close-knit community could also abound in rumour and fear.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: WAYFARING STRANGER by James Lee Burke

Best known for his series of books featuring Dave Robicheaux, James Lee Burke offers a fascinating historical crime novel in Wayfaring Stranger (Orion). Texas sheriff Hackberry Holland will be familiar to Burke’s fans, having first appeared in one of Burke’s earliest novels, Lay Down My Sword and Shield (1971), and more recently in Rain Gods (2009) and Feast of Fools (2011), but the Hackberry Holland we meet here is an older incarnation, a laconic US Marshal who made his reputation when he faced down the infamous outlaw John Wesley Hardin.
  That ‘Wild West’ motif is a recurring one throughout Wayfaring Stranger, even though the story opens in Depression-era Texas, when the appearance of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow make an indelible impression on the teenage Weldon Holland, Hackberry’s grandson and protégé. Weldon believes Bonnie and Clyde to be heroes who should be celebrated, as were earlier outlaws, for their courage and willingness to flout the law of the land; his grandfather, older and wiser, understands the danger to civilised society such loose cannons represent.
  Later, another formative experience during the Battle of the Bulge gives Weldon a sense of perspective on life that his enemies lack when he starts drilling for oil in Louisiana during the post-WWII years. Unwilling to bend the knee to his social and economic superiors, and determined above all else to protect his Jewish wife Rosita, whom he met whilst escaping from the Germans during the war, Weldon finds himself caught up in a very dirty game of industrial espionage.
  If the Dave Robicheaux novels have grown thematically repetitive in the years since Burke’s masterpiece The Tin Roof Blowdown (2007), as Robicheaux ruminates at length on his mortality, Wayfaring Stranger represents an intriguing tangent to his body of work (Burke has published 33 novels to date).
  The acknowledged grandmaster of the American crime novel (he has won the Mystery Writers of America ‘Edgar Award’ three times, and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1988), Burke here employs the framework of the crime narrative to write a sprawling epic spanning the embryonic years of what he describes as ‘the New American Empire’. “Inside its crassness was a kind of meretricious innocence,” writes Burke, “one you might associate with a nation’s inception or perhaps its demise, like the twilight of the gods or an antebellum vision borrowed from the world of Margaret Mitchell.”
  Bonnie and Clyde and a cameo appearance by Bugsy Siegel initially appear to root the story in a conventional tale of warring gangsters, but Burke has a more ambitious story to tell here. “There’s a difference between justice and vengeance,” Rosita tells Weldon, but while justice and / or vengeance are traditionally the goal of the crime novel’s protagonists, Burke has in mind the kind of hero that long predates the crime novel. “Roy says we’re wayfaring strangers, like the Canterbury Pilgrims trying to wend their way past the Black Death. He says death is the only reality in our lives.” Repeated references to Chaucer, Shakespeare, the chivalric romances and the Song of Roland give us a sense of the broader canvas Burke is working with here – indeed, Burke eventually goes so far as to allow Weldon to claim that “the Homeric epic doesn’t have to be discovered inside a book; it begins just west of Forth Worth and extends all the way to Santa Monica.”
  Recounted in Burke’s familiar blend of Southern vernacular and lush, dreamy prose-poetry, Weldon Holland’s exploits may not reach the heights of Homer’s heroes, but Wayfaring Stranger is nevertheless a wonderfully ambitious and absorbing novel. ~ Declan Burke

  This review first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Publication: THE LAKE by Sheena Lambert

Sheena Lambert’s debut thriller THE LAKE is published as an e-book by Killer Reads on March 19th, with the paperback to follow in June. Quoth the blurb elves:
September 1975. A body is discovered in the receding waters of a man-made lake, and for Peggy Casey, 23-year-old landlady of The Angler’s Rest, nothing will ever be the same. Detective Sergeant Frank Ryan is dispatched from Dublin, and his arrival casts an uneasy spotlight on the damaged history of the valley, and on the difficult relationships that bind Peggy and her three older siblings. Over the course of the weekend, Detective Ryan’s investigation will not only uncover the terrible truth behind the dead woman’s fate, but will also expose the Casey family’s deepest secrets. Secrets never meant to be revealed.
  For more on Sheena Lambert, clickety-click here

Friday, February 20, 2015

Local Heroes: Seamus Smyth

I was going to write a Local Heroes post about Seamus Smyth, author of the brilliant QUINN, akin to the piece I wrote about Philip Davison recently, but then I stumbled across this from Ken Bruen, from waaaaay back in 2007. Take it away, Ken:
“Life sucks, yadda-yadda, so what else is new? But sometimes it sucks on a level that you want to scream, “Ah for fucksakes!” Being a crime writer always means registering low on the literary barometer but being an Irish crime writer? Just shoot yourself – unless you’re plugged into the usual mafia circle of same tired old names.
  “Seamus Smyth wrote a blistering debut titled QUINN back in 1999 and what should have been a major lift-off to a glittering career came to zilch. If he were writing in the UK or USA, he’d be mega. QUINN is a kick-in-the-face wondrous blitz of a novel. No tip-toeing Mr Nice Guy here: this is a first-person narrative of a psycho who operates in the Dublin underworld, the kind of novel Paul Williams would, ahem, kill to have written.
  “The hero, Gerd Quinn, is straight from the tradition of Goodis through Thompson to the wry, sly humour of a Willeford. The writing is a dream, a style all Smyth’s own. He uses his anti-hero to pay homage to the noir genre and yet subvert it in a way only a true dark Irish craftsman could. It’s the kind of novel you read and think, ‘Just bloody mighty’, and immediately watch out for his next. But this is not just a great crime novel, it’s one hell of a novel, full stop. QUINN should be THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE for this decade, it’s that good and fresh and innovative.
  “Let’s remedy one case of criminal neglect and get Seamus Smyth up where he belongs, right at the top of the genre, and allow a rare and unique talent to do what he was born to do - write the provocative novels this country deserves. Gerd Quinn states, ‘There’s no malice in what I do …’, which makes it one of the most ironic opening lines of any novel in light of what’s coming down the Smyth pike. QUINN is not only vital, it’s damn essential.” ~ Ken Bruen
  For all the details on QUINN, clickety-click here

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: STUMPED by Rob Kitchin

The latest Irish Times crime fiction column includes a review of Rob Kitchin’s STUMPED, which ran a lot like this:
Billed as a ‘screwball noir’ and set during the concluding days of an Irish election campaign, Rob Kitchin’s Stumped (280 Steps, €11.99) is a comic crime caper that opens with Grant, an English academic based at Maynooth University, being presented with an ultimatum: return an unspecified package stolen from a Dublin gang lord, or see his friend Sinead returned to him in severed pieces. Enlisting the help of the wheelchair-bound Mary and her camp friend Declan, the hapless, bumbling Grant sets out to do the right thing, aided and abetted by venial politicians, low-life thugs, tabloid journalists, a rockabilly cop and a veritable platoon of drag queen farmers. Kitchin – an English academic based at Maynooth University – offers a delightfully preposterous tale in this, his fourth novel, even if the story is neither bleak enough to qualify as true noir and lacks the snappy, crackling dialogue we associate with classic screwball comedy. That said, Kitchin maintains a cracking pace and generates plenty of humour by switching rapidly between the perspectives of a swarming host of outlandish characters, very few of whom are anywhere near as clever or competent as they believe themselves to be. ~ Declan Burke
  For the rest of the column, which includes the current offerings from Paula Hawkins, Harri Nykänen and Celeste Ng, clickety-click here

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Review: DEATH SENTENCES, edited by Otto Penzler

The physical book may be under threat from the digital revolution and its e-books, according to perceived wisdom, but book collectors and bibliophiles are in far more immediate danger of being wiped out.
  At least, that’s the recurring theme in Death Sentences (Head of Zeus), a collection of short stories edited by Otto Penzler and written by 16 crime and mystery authors who are, according to Ian Rankin’s Introduction, ‘masters of their craft’. Jeffrey Deaver, John Connolly, Nelson DeMille, Laura Lippman, CJ Box and Anne Perry are just some of the household names who contribute to a collection in which each offering revolves around books.
  Overall it’s an amusing conceit. We tend to imagine that book lovers, librarians and bibliophiles of all stripes are quiet, gentle folk, likely to live to a grand old age and slip away in their sleep, preferably in a comfortable armchair in a well-lit bay window, a blanket across the knees, a good book still clutched in their gnarled hands.
  In Death Sentences, however, book lovers are bludgeoned to death by their precious tomes, crushed by falling bookshelves, shoved down library stairs whilst holding a tottering pile of research volumes, or blown to bits by a bomb smuggled into their private library. When they’re not the actual murder weapon itself, books provide one or more elements of the crime writers’ beloved triumvirate of means, motive and opportunity.
  Indeed, some of the authors play the concept for wry comedy. William Link’s pulpy throwback to the hardboiled days of the Black Mask magazine, ‘Death Leaves a Bookmark’, features a police detective called Columbo. Nelson DeMille’s The Book Case – one of two stories that features falling bookshelves as the murder weapon – offers a jaunty tone of murder investigation in a crime fiction bookstore, in which the sardonic police detective, John Corey, notes the bestselling writers on display, “such as Brad Meltzer, James Patterson, David Baldacci, Nelson DeMille, and others who make more money writing about what I do than I make doing what I do.”
  Other writers take a more serious approach. Set in London in 1938, Peter Blauner’s ‘The Final Testament’ is narrated by Sigmund Freud, and tells of how Freud is approached by a Nazi agent who wants to blackmail Freud into putting his name to a piece of black propaganda about the Jewish people. As it happens, a number of the stories here incorporate the Nazis. Set in the American northwest, CJ Box’s story ‘Pronghorns of the Third Reich’ is as bizarre as its title suggests, and true into the bargain (Box even provides photographic evidence of his claim). Thomas H. Cook’s affecting tale ‘What’s In A Name?’ offers an alternative history of the 20th Century, and features an aspiring but ultimately unpublished author with a very potent name. Meanwhile, ‘The Book of Ghosts’ by Reed Farrel Coleman, which tells the tale of the morally conflicted Holocaust survivor Jacob Weisen, is one of the finest of the collection.
  Given that the vast majority of authors are readers so deranged by books that they are themselves maddened into writing, the stories also offer fascinating glimpse of the authors’ personal obsessions. Laura Lippman’s beautifully quirky ‘The Book Thing’ takes her series private eye Tess Monaghan (and Tess’s baby daughter Carla Scout) into the colourful world of children’s bookshops, where she is commissioned to investigate a very unusual crime. Anne Perry’s ‘The Scroll’ is as influenced by the horror genre as it is by crime and mystery, and centres on a mysterious and ancient vellum scroll that hides a dark secret in its Aramaic script. Where many of the stories revolve around valuable and precious books, David Bell’s ‘Rides a Stranger’ concerns itself with a tattered old Western paperback. The Mickey Spillane story ‘It’s in the Book’, finished here by Max Allan Collins, sees the imperishable Mike Hammer in pursuit of a dead Mafia don’s old ledger, its secrets a threat to the President of the United States.
  There are two Irish contributions to the collection. In the first, Ken Bruen – whose protagonists are invariably well-read – brings his unique style to bear on New York and a young Irish-American man’s bitter relationship with his father, a former NYPD cop. When the father dies and unexpectedly bequeaths his son The Book of Virtue, the son is forced to reassess what he knew of his father, and his own life’s direction.
  By contrast with Bruen’s brusque style, John Connolly’s ‘The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository’ is an elegantly wrought tale of the rather dull Mr Berger, who late one evening witnesses a young woman step in front of a speeding train – and yet can find no trace of her remains on the railway track. The story’s supernatural elements quickly segue into a hugely entertaining tale of fictional characters interacting with reality as Mr Berger pursues the ‘ghost’. (I should declare an interest here by saying that I have in the past co-edited a book with John Connolly; the fact that ‘The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository’ won last year’s Edgar Award for Best Short Story is testament to its quality).
  Ultimately, the most vulnerable victim in the collection – the plethora of murdered booksellers, readers and bibliophiles notwithstanding – is the physical book itself. Whether the writers make explicit their concerns about the e-book revolution, as Laura Lippman does, or contextualise the veneration of the physical book – or vellum parchment, say, or a hand-stitched volume written by Hernando Cortez – the message remains the same: the book, regardless of the story it tells, is a valuable artefact in its own right, and e-books, even if they tell the exact same story, lack cultural heft, physically and metaphorically.
  The mood is summed up by Andrew Taylor’s ‘The Long Sonata of the Dead’, a beautifully written tale set for the most part amid the labyrinthine stacks of the London Library. “It’s the real, printed book that matters,” our hero, a writer, tells us; as a result, and though his subsequent actions are rather less than savoury, it’s very hard to consider him entirely immoral. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Photo Essay: Charlie Parker’s Portland

Richard Edwards recently compiled a rather beautiful photo essay of Portland, Maine, according to locations mentioned in John Connolly’s Charlie Parker novels. It’s a terrific idea, and it’d be great to see it catch on. Quoth Richard:
“There are dozens of reasons why you should pick up a Charlie Parker novel; character, story, tension, surprises abound, but for me, a key element is a feeling of realism that you can sense throughout the writing. An author needs authority, hence the title, and it’s important to be able to trace some believability in what you’re reading, no matter how fantastic the story line, and John Connolly does this expertly, tying the story into living, breathing locations, peppered with believable local characters.”
  For the photo essay, clickety-click here …

Monday, February 16, 2015

Reviews: THE LOST AND THE BLIND by Declan Burke

As all Three Regular Readers will be aware, I do try to keep the self-promotion bumf to a minimum here at CAP Towers, so I hope you’ll forgive me if I indulge myself yet again. I was trying for something a little different when I wrote THE LOST AND THE BLIND (Severn House), and the early reviews across various platforms seem to be quite positive about the result. To wit:
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist

“There’s much, much more, and readers with the patience to watch as Burke (Crime Always Pays, 2014, etc.) peels back layer after layer will be rewarded with an unholy Chinese box of a thriller. Make that an Irish-German box.” – Kirkus Reviews

“In “The Lost and the Blind,” Declan Burke weaves plot twist after plot twist together to create a thriller full of mystery and intrigue. If you think you can predict endings, you won’t this time. The first few chapters keep you dizzy with questions as the story starts to unfold. If not for Burke’s ability to create a spellbinding tale, you might be tempted to put the book down. You are never quite sure what happened, who to trust, or what’s truly going on in Delphi Island until the end. The only promise is that Burke keeps you turning the page with his style of writing, deft dialogue, and cast of characters. Not many authors are capable of successfully pulling off such a complex plot, but Burke does and makes it seem effortless.” – Library Thing

“This book has great elements of crime, thriller and mystery, with an intricate plot that keeps you on your toes up to the final pages. This is the first Declan Burke book I’ve read and it won’t be the last.” – Romancrimeblogger, Amazon
  If that piques your interest, you’ll find THE LOST AND THE BLIND here

One to Watch: DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH by Andrea Carter

We have a while to wait yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for Andrea Carter’s debut novel, DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH (Constable), which will be published in October and set on Donegal’s Inishowen peninsula. Quoth the blurb elves:
When a skeleton is discovered, wrapped in a blanket, in the hidden crypt of a deconsecrated church, everyone is convinced the bones must be those of Conor Devitt, a local man who went missing on his wedding day six years previously. But the post mortem reveals otherwise.
  Solicitor Ben O’Keeffe is acting for the owners of the church, and although an unwelcome face from her past makes her reluctant to get involved initially, when Conor’s brother dies in strange circumstances shortly after coming to see her, she finds herself drawn in to the mystery. Whose is the skeleton in the crypt and how did it get there? Is Conor Devitt still alive, and if so is there a link? What happened on the morning of his wedding to make him disappear?
  Negotiating between the official investigation, headed up by the handsome but surly Sergeant Tom Molloy, and obstructive locals with secrets of their own, Ben unravels layers of personal and political history to get to the truth of what happened six years before.
  For more on Andrea Carter, clickety-click here

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Interview: Sheila Bugler

The author of HUNTING SHADOWS and THE WAITING GAME, Shelia Bugler (right) is interviewed over at the Words With Jam ezine. An excerpt:
“As someone with a particular interest in flawed female characters, I’d love to have written any one of Gillian Flynn’s marvellous novels. Or anything by Megan Abbott – I am a huge fan of her work. I recently read This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash and was in awe for days afterwards. It’s a stunning novel. Tana French’s latest The Secret Place is another brilliant piece of crime fiction. If I could ever write a book that compares to any of those authors, I’d be really happy.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here