If, like this Cork native, you can't be back in Ireland for St Patrick's Day (and the parades have been canceled there, too, by the way) then the next best thing is to escape into a book by an excellent Irish writer. No Joyce or Yeats or Behan for me today, though. From a drunken ex-Guard turned P.I. in Galway, to a former NYPD detective who doesn't know if he's looking for redemption or revenge, to a London D.C. trying to build a career, and back to Galway to a Guard trying to salvage his career, you won't need to attend a parade to see the boys (and girls) in blue today.
The Guards by Ken Bruen
One reviewer said of The Guards "If Elmore Leonard got together with James Joyce to write a Spencer novel, this is what you'd get!" and there's a ring of truth to that. Jack Taylor has been unceremoniously booted out of the The Guards—Ireland's police force—but that's the only job he knows, so he becomes Ireland's first private investigator. Or he will, if he can get his arse off the barstool. Turns out the job description requires more than being baleful and drunken, with the soul of a poet. Bleak, lyrical and brutal, shot through with desperate fatalism, The Guards is Irish noir at its best.
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly
If you're in the market for a new series, John Connolly's Charlie Parker series is a wise bet. The 18th book in the series, The Dirty South, publishes this summer, but start at the start with Every Dead Thing. Former NYPD detective Charlie "Bird" Parker is tortured by the slaying of his wife and daughter by a serial killer. Consumed by guilt, regret, and the need for revenge, Parker accepts a request from his old partner to track down a missing girl and finds himself chasing a serial killer in the bayous of Louisiana. Vivid and gory (one of Connolly's source books was The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture), violent and dark, but straining for the light, the Charlie Parker series shouldn't be missed.
Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan
When Detective Chief Superintendent Frankie Sheehan walks into a quiet, pristine, suburban Dublin home, Eleanor Costello is hanging from a rope. And Frankie, easing back into work after an almost-fatal brush with a serial killer, is happy to call this one a suicide and sidestep another homicide investigation. But when Eleanor’s husband proves missing, an autopsy shows old injuries, and a look at the couple’s laptop reveals Dark Web activity, Frankie may be up to her eyes in just the kind of case she was hoping to avoid. Too Close To Breathe is as much a character study as it is an inventive mystery with gruesome crimes to solve, yet Kiernan holds the reins on both perfectly, never letting one overpower the other. Also, check out the second book in this new series, The Killer in Me.
The Burning by Jane Casey
For fans of Prime Suspect, The Burning, featuring ambitious detective constable Maeve Kerrigan, is almost like getting to watch Jane Tennyson during the earliest years of her career. Kerrigan is smart and tough, but making her mark on the murder task force is complicated by good old-fashioned sexism: the belief that being female makes her too empathetic and therefore, weak. With a serial killer who bludgeons and then burns his victims, all physical evidence literally goes up in smoke, and it will be up to Kerrigan to do the painstaking work required to catch a killer in this realistic police procedural, the first in an excellent six-book series.
Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty
It's a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire for Michael Forsythe, an illegal immigrant escaping the Troubles in Belfast. He joins a gang of Irish thugs struggling against the rising Dominican powers in Harlem and the Bronx in 1992, the pre-gentrification years. As they fight it out block by block for turf, Michael's star is on the rise with the boss. Too bad he's already seduced the boss' girlfriend though, and murderous retribution is on its way. But Michael is tough and he's learned a few tricks back on the streets of Belfast, and one of them involves vengeance. Dead I Well May Be is slick, violent, darkly funny New York noir with a Belfast accent and the gift of the gab.
A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell
A Man With One of Those Faces reads like Roddy Doyle contributed the dialog which is made up of hilarious, acerbic, self-deprecating Dublinese. But the genuinely suspenseful plot holds up too, in this funny caper. Paul Mulchrane has one of those faces that looks like someone you know. So Paul has been visiting lonely nursing home patients, hoping he looks enough like someone they know that they'll throw him a few quid, enough money to avoid getting a real job. Which is all fine until a dying old man mistakes Paul for the nephew of a vicious Dublin crime lord, Gerry Fallon. Now Paul is on the run with Bridget, a nurse with a yen for crime novels, and they'll have to solve one of the most notorious crimes in Irish history to get out of trouble.
The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan
A Best of the Month pick back in 2018, The Ruin centers on a detective, Cormac Reilly, who realizes that the dead man pulled out of the river Corrib is the same person he rescued many years earlier. Then, young Jack and his sister Maude were two scared children left alone in the crumbling mansion in which their mother had just overdosed. Now, the harder Cormac tries to unravel the link, if any, between the deaths of mother and son, the more complicated and dangerous it gets in this dark, noirish tale of small-town crime and corruption. And don't miss the follow-up, The Scholar.
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