Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review of Ghost Town by Michael Clifford (Hachette, 2012)

Joshua ‘The Dancer’ Molloy could have been a professional footballer.  Instead, he turned to drink and became a member of a drug’s gang.  Having just got out of prison for drug smuggling, as part of his AA programme he has returned to Ireland to confront his past and to see his young son.  Only his past mugs him, implicating him in the shooting of a gang leader, Junior Corbett.  The hit unleashes a fresh wave of tit-for-tat killings amongst Dublin’s gangs and a contract being served for Molloy's life.  The Dancer tries to go to ground, at the same time using the services of Noelle Higgins, a solicitor, to seek access to his child.  Noelle has problems of her own.  She’s married to Donal Higgins, a property developer whose empire is falling around his ears and who has fled the country leaving her to face disgruntled investors, the courts and the media.  Alan Slate, a crime reporter trying to rebuild his career and working for a small start-up magazine, has been assigned to investigate both the attempt on Corbett’s life and Noelle’s husband.  Well connected with the police, Slate excels at putting his nose where it’s not wanted.  In a twist of fate, Corbett has invested in one of Higgins’ schemes and wants his money back.  The scene is thus set for a complex game of cat and mouse, Molloy and Noelle trying to survive as various forces are ranged against them. 

Ghost Town is a very well written and entertaining debut novel.  Michael Clifford is an Irish journalist and columnist and brings all his skills as a seasoned writer to the book.  The real strengths of the novel are its plotting, the characterization, the sense of place, and the contextualization.  The story is told through a series of short, tight scenes, shorn of any flab.  This works to drive the plot along and to create a high tempo and good tension.  And although the plotline is relatively complex, told from multiple perspectives, Clifford makes sure that the reader never loses the thread of the narrative.  All of the characters are well penned with sufficient back story to give them depth and make them interesting despite there being a number of central cast members.  A real plus for me was that Ghost Town is very much a book about modern Ireland, clearly set in Dublin and Kerry, and detailing elements of the property crash and how it has affected the lives of many.  One touch I particularly liked was the symmetry between the professional footballer turned media mogul slowly disintegrating (Slate’s boss), with the failed footballer putting his life back together (Molloy).  Clifford does an excellent job of bringing the story to a climax; though a couple of aspects of the resolution were a little clunky though just about credible.  Overall, this is a very solid and enjoyable book and a very good complement to Alan Glynn’s Winterland and Gene Kerrigan’s The Rage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have this one and thanks writing up a review for it. --Keishon