Book review: Blood Money
Arlene Hunt (Hachette Books Ireland, €14.44)
Six years ago, Dublin crime writer Arlene Hunt (pictured) was a debut author on the sidelines of Irish fiction. Since then, she has rapidly built up her QuicK Investigations series, featuring private investigators John Quigley and Sarah Kenny set against the familiar backdrop of Dublin streets.
Her last book, Undertow, was nominated for the best crime novel at the 2009 Irish book awards and she has just published her sixth novel (and fifth in the QuicK series), Blood Money.
This time around, John Quigley is investigating the apparent suicide of Alison Cooper, a successful doctor and wife and mother, while his partner Sarah has disappeared without trace after being roughed up in a mugging that happened while John was out of town.
But the story begins far away from these events, with a Bosnian prisoner called Pavel Sunic. He has just been released after his sister Ana, his only surviving relative, sold one of her kidneys to bribe a witness. When she dies as a result of the botched operation, Pavel, a pitiless killer who takes pleasure in torturing and killing, sets out to get revenge.
One of Hunt's calling cards has always been her unflinching, eye-watering accounts of violence and here we have torture, killings and bone-crunching fights to sate the most blood-thirsty of pulp fiction fans.
Pavel follows a trail of greed and corruption, those crime fiction stalwarts, all the way to Ireland, where his story becomes intertwined with the shiny shop front and crooked underbelly of a Dublin clinic, while John tries to track down his missing partner while solving why Alison killed herself.
The trafficking of human organs is a great premise for a crime novel as it draws in so many different social classes, from surgeons to prisoners, and offers plenty of moral dilemmas and Hunt makes good use of these. It's also a topic that Hunt can probably bring more emotional veracity to than most as her own father-in-law had a heart transplant 10 years ago.
Blood Money feels very contemporary with the fallout of the recession, unemployment and immigration all featuring in its pages.The book is enjoyably fast-paced, although sometimes a little too fast as Hunt jumps between character perspectives so frequently that you have to play catch-up. That aside, Hunt is a novelist in control of her story and a quick-witted stylist with just the right amount of noir pastiche to make it all enjoyable.