Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review of The Irish Sports Pages by Les Roberts (Gary and Co, 2002)

Brian McFall’s con is to pretend that he’s recently off a flight from Ireland, that the airline has lost all his documents and luggage, and that he needs a roof over his head for a couple of days while he tracks down his cousin. Hugh Cochran falls for the line and given his apartment is too small, passes him on to Maureen Hartigan, a Common Pleas judge and wife of a deceased senator. Then McFall disappears with some cash, jewellery and incriminating photos. Judge Hartigan turns to Milan Jacovich, a PI of Slovenian descent, who shares some romantic history with her daughter to try and find McFall and return the photos. Only McFall is found dead and the photos are missing. Finding McFall’s killer should hopefully lead to the photos, but life is not made easy by Con McCardle, the local Irish republican godfather, Florence McHargue, a local ball-busting, homocide detective, and sometime friend, mob boss, Giancarlo D'Allessandro.

This is a fairly straightforward PI novel and what I’d call an okay read. The writing is proficient without being sparkling, the dialogue is functional, the characters are taken straight out of the crime writers' generic and clichéd character box, and the story relatively formulaic. It whiled away a few hours pleasantly enough. I guess my big problem was the initial premise. I just couldn’t buy into the idea that a savvy, sassy judge would let somebody she didn’t know stay in her home for a few days, especially one as inept as Brian McFall with a story that didn't stack up (there's no way you can get into the US without documentation and judge would know this). There were also some issues about repetition, which seemed more about poor editing than anything else.

A few pages into this book I realised that I've read a Les Roberts novel before – A Shoot in Cleveland. Funnily, I’d read this flying from Chicago to Dublin (I read most of The Irish Sports Pages flying Dublin to Chicago) although I managed to leave the book in the seat pocket 30 pages from the end, much to my annoyance (that’s what red eye flights do to you). I’d enjoyed the book, but I wasn’t going to buy another copy to finish it off, so technically it’s in my didn’t finish pile. I wouldn’t rule out reading another story by Roberts, but I have a long list of other authors whose other works I want to catch up on. The Irish sports pages, by the way, are the obituary columns - the first pages any respecting Irish man reads to find out who in the community has passed away.

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Thanks for the review, Rob -
I agree completely about how important it is that the premise of a novel be believable. The essence of a good mystery is that the plot be believable. Suspending one's disbelief for a movie is one thing; in a well-written mystery, one shouldn't have to do that.