Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Review of Black Irish by Stephan Talty (Headline, 2013)

Absolam (Abbie) Kearney grew up in The County, the close-knit, clannish south Buffalo district dominated by an Irish working class community.  As a non-Irish orphan with gypsy looks adopted by an Irish cop she had never quite fitted-in despite her efforts.  Headstrong and determined to prove she’s her father’s daughter, she has followed him into the police, but after a disastrous stint in Miami she’s ended up back in Buffalo as a detective and caring for her father who has early-stage Alzheimers.  When a call comes in from the County about a missing man, Abbie heads there to investigate.  Shortly afterwards he is found, brutally murdered.  As Abbie and her partner, Zangara, start to investigate it’s clear that the County is turning inward, refusing to offer up what it knows, and that Jimmy Ryan is the first victim in a set.  Moreover, the killer is taunting her.  Under pressure from her boss, Abbie manages to unearth a trail and tries to get the County to give up its secrets, but there seems little chance of catching the killer before he completes his task and Abbie is clearly part of his plans.

Black Irish is a police procedural thriller that rattles along a quick clip.  The strength of the novel is its characterisation and sense of place.  Absolam Kearney is a strong, proud and feisty cop with a sizable chip on her shoulder who makes for a compelling lead character.  The other characters are well-penned and Talty captures well the close relations of a clannish community.  He also creates a vivid sense of the County and Buffalo in general as a rust-belt city down on its heels.  The plot for the most part works well, revealing the Irish republican history of the community and its legacy, and the tension builds throughout.  However, the tale falters somewhat towards the end, with what for me was one twist too far that felt too implausible and contrived.  Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable start to a series, with a lead character and setting I look forward to following.

No comments: