Tuesday 20 August 2019

Black hearts and brutal murders in a killer collection of Irish crime novel writing

Fresh authors, old hands and confident writing make up the ‘Irish Independent’ Crime Fiction shortlist

Return: Julie Parsons. Photo: Tony Gavin
Return: Julie Parsons. Photo: Tony Gavin

Anne Marie Scanlon

For the past decade Tana French has been the doyenne of Irish crime fiction, and Karen Perry’s Can You Keep a Secret? which was listed as one of Red magazine’s Top 10 Crime Reads for autumn, is a must–read for French fans as it combines a great plot, realistic characters, magnificent atmosphere (in both timelines) and wonderful writing.

Lindsey, a forensic photographer, spent much of her teens at Thornbury Hall, the Anglo-Irish ‘Big House’ inherited by her friend Rachel’s glamorous parents, the Bagenals. Twenty-five years later she returns for a weekend reunion with the school pals she hasn’t seen in the intervening years. This is a dark, gripping thriller with a deliciously slow reveal and a stand-out twist.

Old friends prove to be problematic in Cat Hogan’s There Was a Crooked Man. The action ranges from Marrakesh to a small fishing village in Wexford. Scott, a psychopath with zero self-awareness, has been in exile for two years along with his dogsbody Fran. He decides it’s time for payback against the group of friends who he blames for his troubles — especially Jen. The plot is revealed from the various perspectives of the main characters who are all lying — to themselves and each other. Actor Aidan Gillen (who Hogan pictured as villain Scott when writing) says she writes “vividly and unflinchingly”, while author and Hot Press writer Jackie Hayden stated that the villains “keep you looking over both shoulders long after you’ve put the book down”.

More old school friends cause trouble in One Bad Turn by Sinead Crowley. Recurring character DS Claire Boyle gets caught (literally) in the crossfire when she and her baby daughter visit Dr Heather Gilmore. Gilmore has been taken hostage by her old school friend Eileen Delaney, who blames the doctor and her ex-husband, for the death of her teenage son.

The Gilmores’ teen daughter Leah has also been abducted in revenge. The plot follows Claire’s hunt for the missing girl and ends with a double twist.

Fans on Goodreads were almost unanimous in their praise, calling it “deceptively twisty” and noting that it was “rooted in contemporary political and financial issues in Ireland”.

Julie Parsons (pictured right) returns to writing after almost a decade with The Therapy House, a gripping, brooding thriller. Retired detective Michael McLoughlin has just moved to a ‘fixer-upper’ in an old, well established part of Dun Laoghaire.

His next door neighbour is the renowned former judge John Hegarty, the son of a famous hero of the War of Independence. When Hegarty is brutally murdered McLoughlin is the one who finds the body and soon secrets about the revered public figure begin to emerge. The Irish Independent compared Parsons’s “unflinching exploration of the black heart of humanity” with that of the American writer James Ellroy. She also takes on the black heart of Irish history. Hopefully Parsons won’t leave it 10 years before the next one.

Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan returns in her seventh outing in Let the Dead Speak. A teenage girl returns home in an outwardly ‘normal’ London suburb to find it awash with blood and her mother missing. Kerrigan’s investigations reveal the horror that lives behind closed doors and the darkness that often accompanies religious zealotry. Goodreads praised Casey’s latest novel saying it was “one wild twisted ride, with darker psychological tones to go along with the standard police procedures”. Fans and critics alike were almost unanimous in their acclaim of the evolution of newly-promoted Maeve Kerrigan .

Stuart Neville, writing as Haylen Beck, has departed his usual style for a thriller set in the United States — Here and Gone. Audra experiences every mother’s worst nightmare but with a horrific new twist. Fleeing an abusive relationship in New York, Audra is arrested by a tin pot sheriff on a deserted stretch of Arizona road. Her two children are taken away; the sheriff denies he ever saw them and sets about framing Audra for their disappearance and murder. The shady sheriff has already sold the children to suspicious figures from the Dark Web, and Audra isn’t the first person to be set up. The Bookseller praised Here and Gone as a “heart-stopping psychological thriller”, while the Chicago Daily Herald noted it was “terrifyingly realistic from the start”.

The winner of the Irish Independent Crime Fiction Award will be announced on Tuesday at a gala ceremony which will be broadcast or RTE on Wednesday, November 29 at 9.30pm

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