Monday, January 16, 2012

Review of Black Sheep by Arlene Hunt (Hodder Headline Ireland, 2006)

David Reid, a successful furniture designer, has been found dead in a Dublin canal. He was drunk when he died, and his death has been ruled as misadventure by the local gardai and coroner. His brother though is convinced that David was the victim of foul play and hires QuicK investigations, run by PIs Sarah Kenny and John Quigley, to discover what really happened. Reid’s car is missing, and on the day of his funeral, his house is broken into by two teenage twins and his laptop and other items stolen. Sarah is a witness to the robbery and it provides an initial clue that suggests the Reid’s brother might be right. As the case progresses it’s clear that Reid had a dark secret to hide, one that could have repercussions for others if revealed, and by pursuing the killer, Sarah and John have unwittingly stirred a hornet’s nest that will potentially lead to further skulduggery.

Black Sheep is the second in the QuicK Investigations series. In many respects, there’s no great mystery to the story - an astute reader will have a fair idea as to how the story is going to unfold and who the killer is from near the start - but that doesn’t really matter. It’s the telling and unfolding of the story and the characters that make the book work. The plot is nicely constructed and hangs together well, and the procedural elements of the private investigation are credible, even if the police seem fairly incompetent (though that might be a fair assessment). The first third was a little slow, but then it picks up and the latter third rattles along with no flab. What I particularly liked was the characterisation of the suite of secondary characters - Big Jack, the Quinn Brothers, the golfing buddies, JJ, Jimmy and Billy, Sarah’s sisters and mother, etc are all well penned and come alive on the page. Somewhat oddly, it was the two leads - Sarah and John - that felt a little lifeless and distant to me; for some reason I couldn’t really get a handle on them or their relationship. Sarah seemed all unnecessary hard angles and John somewhat bland, and their back stories were a little thin. I’m wondering if that’s because I’ve come into the QuicK series at the second book. Regardless, this was a good, solid, enjoyable read set in the context of Ireland at the height of its excesses, just prior to the crash.


pattinase (abbott) said...

What do you regard as the five best Irish mysteries or crime stories? I should try and read more.

Dorte H said...

As I love mysteries, I love a great plot, of course, but style, setting and characters are also more important to me than big surprises. I´ll put her name on the mental list for now.