Killer line-up for book awards
The 2017 Bórd Gais Energy Irish Book Awards take place next week when the winner of the hotly contested Irish Independent Crime Fiction Book of the Year gong will be revealed. Darragh McManus casts a cold eye over the six suspects
'Irish writers are hot and about to get hotter." That was the pronouncement of organiser Alastair Giles at the recent launch of this year's Bórd Gais Energy Irish Book Awards shortlists. When it comes to crime fiction, you can crank the thermostat up another few degrees.
Following trailblazers like Ken Bruen and John Connolly, our mystery authors have exploded on to the books scene, here and abroad, in the last 15 years. Commercial and critical success has been plundered by the likes of Tana French, Declan Burke, Alan Glynn, Arlene Hunt, Gene Kerrigan, and of course, Mr Benjamin Black (a little-known novelist called John Banville in his spare time).
This year the Irish Independent is sponsoring the Crime Fiction Book of the Year award, to be announced at a gala event on November 29.
Reflecting the particular strength of women in Irish crime fiction, there are five female and two male authors listed. Meet six killer crime novels…
CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
Karen Perry (Michael Joseph)
Karen Perry is the nom du plume of novelist Karen Gillece and poet Paul Perry. Their previous two collaborations have earned praise from such luminaries as crime doyen Jeffery Deaver.
In Can You Keep a Secret?, Perry channels the spirit of Paula Hawkins and Ruth Ware with a classic "domestic noir" set-up. Garda forensic photographer Lindsey reunites with old friends, reconnects with the past - and stumbles into a hazardous present - amid the faded grandeur of a Carlow manor home. Secrets, lies and decades-old resentments might well be the recipe for murder.
HERE AND GONE
Haylen Beck (Harvill Secker)
Once his debut The Twelve made Best of the Year lists in both the New York Times and LA Times, a sterling career was guaranteed for Armagh man Stuart Neville. His latest book, though, comes under a pseudonym: Haylen Beck, he has explained, is an homage to the great American crime writers who inspired him.
Here and Gone opens with a woman escaping a troubled situation with her children. She's stopped by the police, questioned, separated from her kids - then things take a chilling turn, as the cop insists that there are no children. Thus begins what has been described as a "brilliant, relentless rollercoaster".
LET THE DEAD SPEAK
Jane Casey (HarperCollins)
London-based Dubliner Casey is an accomplished creator of police procedural and Young Adult. In the former, her last Maeve Kerrigan book, After the Fire, took this award in 2015 - making her the only previous winner on this year's list.
In Casey's latest Kerrigan novel, the doughty, likeable Maeve has just been promoted to Detective Sergeant when she gets a doozy of a case. A beautiful but damaged girl is missing, her Putney home is splattered with blood - but there's no body. Aided by her colleague (and frenemy of sorts) Derwent, Maeve investigates, with a creepy cult among their targets.
ONE BAD TURN
Sinéad Crowley (Quercus)
Perhaps better known as RTÉ's arts and entertainment correspondent, Sinéad Crowley is certainly establishing a sterling reputation on the other side of the fence: we might call this a case of "literary poacher turned gamekeeper". One Bad Turn is the third book in her series of procedurals featuring Detective Sergeant Claire Boyle.
A seemingly workaday visit to her GP turns into a nightmare hostage situation for Claire, and her baby. She must use all her policing skills and experience to sort out a perilous situation involving the doctor, Heather Gilmore, and a friend from her teenage years with some dark secrets.
THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN
Cat Hogan (Poolbeg Press)
Wexford woman Hogan made a splash with her first book They All Fall Down. With this follow-up, she plots a course (and courses a plot) across Ireland, Berlin and even Morocco, to produce a scary, exciting read.
Scott Carluccio Randall, a damaged and dangerous individual (who we already encountered in They All Fall Down) now lives in Marrakech, where he's immersed in a seedy underworld of crime and vice. Meanwhile, Jen lives in Dublin, terrified that Scott will one day return. Unfortunately, with Moroccan gangsters turning on him, that's precisely what Scott intends to do…
THE THERAPY HOUSE
Julie Parsons (New Island Books)
Born in New Zealand and long-term Irish resident, Julie Parsons has an uncommonly varied CV: five-time published author, RTÉ radio and TV producer, creator of novellas and radio dramas. The Therapy House, her first novel in a decade, is a punchy thriller set during the memorable heatwave of 2013. A renowned High Court judge is brutally murdered in his Dún Laoghaire pile. Incidentally, retired Garda Michael McLoughlin has just moved into a neighbouring house (formerly the titular "therapy house", or psychiatric institution). He finds the judge's body and, whether he wants to or not, is inexorably drawn into a game where the stakes are higher than he could have imagined.