‘I want something – I get it. That’s the way it works. We’re not equals. I say what happens.’ He leaned down, his face close enough so he could smell the fear from Finnegan. ‘I don’t have to make an effort.’ He pursed his lips, made like he was blowing out a candle. ‘Like that, you’re gone. Ten minutes later, I’ve forgotten your name. You’re not even a dead body, you’re just a missing person and your family doesn’t even have a grave to put flowers on.’
In Dark Times in the City Kerrigan gives as a good a portrayal of the relations between the new, vicious and ambitious gangsters and the older generation of Dublin’s underworld, and the ordinary folk caught in cross-fire, as any media investigative report (perhaps not unsurprisingly given he’s a highly experienced reporter). Anybody familiar with
The novel’s principal character is Danny Callaghan whose has spent eight years in prison for manslaughter when he stepped into help three lads taking a beating. Eight months on the outside and repeats the mistake, intervening when two gunmen walk into a pub looking to kill petty criminal, Walter Bennett - for a short time Callaghan’s cell mate. Unsurprisingly the assassins are not happy at Callaghan’s intervention and coerce him into fulfilling Walter’s role in a struggle for territory and control between two criminal gangs, threatening him with the death of his ex-wife and her new husband if he doesn’t perform as instructed. Aided by his friend and mentor, Novak, Callaghan tries to keep himself and those that matter to him most alive as his life spirals out of control.
The writing is taut, using short half page to two page scenes to drive the narrative along. The prologue is good, but then I struggled to get into the story for the first 15 pages or so. After that the pages kept turning. The reason I think I had trouble with the opening was revealed in part three of the book which jumps back in time to provide the back story as to why Walter Bennett was the target of an assassination. Personally, I think the book would have worked a little better if it had started with this section. I don’t think it would have mattered if the reader wasn’t introduced to Callaghan until 40 or 50 pages in as the back story grabs immediately. Kerrigan is good at writing about the police and I would have also preferred to have had more scenes involving them, particularly Bob Tidey, who looked like he was going to develop into a great character and then all but disappears. Similarly there is a sub-plot with Oliver, Callaghan’s neighbour, that wasn't as fully developed as it could have been. These though are just personal plotting preferences and the book does work as is.
Dark Times in the City was an enjoyable read, though for my money not quite as good as The Midnight Choir (). I’ll be keeping my eye out for the next offering and in the meantime I’ll keep a look out for Kerrigan’s first novel, Little Criminals.