Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review of The Deal by Michael Clifford (Hachette, 2013)

After ten years in Australia, Karen Riney returns to Ireland after the death of her husband.  On the rebound she ends up in Kerry with Jake, who is paying off a debt to Dublin crime boss, Pascal Nix by running a grow-house.  When the house is raided and Jake arrested, Karen heads to Dublin with the idea of using her new knowledge and Jake’s contacts to go into the grow-house business herself, with the aim of making enough money to make a fresh start.  Without the capital for set-up costs she turns to Nix, a man nobody wants to be in debt to.  As Kevin Wyman well knows; a builder who chased the bust to the bottom, borrowing money from Nix to try and keep his business float.  Nix ensures a healthy return on his investments through the services of Charlie Small, an overweight thug, and Dara Burns, a cold hearted killer for hire.  Karen has little conception of the terms of her debt, confident that she can use her business skills to make a quick profit.   But when Nix is involved there’s no such thing as easy money.

The Deal is a story about ordinary folk, down on their luck in a recession, turning to the fringes of crime to try and make a quick buck and keep their heads above water, and the criminals who exploit them ruthlessly.  It had a strong feel of social realism, as might be expected from a journalist author, and my sense was it gave a good portrayal of dark underbelly of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, much like Clifford’s excellent first book, Ghost Town.  Indeed, the story is an interesting tale and its competently told, but it felt a little flat until the last third when it picked up in pace and tension.  Likewise the characters felt somewhat two-dimensional and I never really connected with them or their troubles.  Overall, then, whilst the plot was well worked and is a timely portrait of contemporary Ireland, the telling seemed to lack bite and sparkle.  Nevertheless, I look forward to Clifford’s next offering.

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