Monday 23 October 2017

Books: Tangled web of crime boss spins riveting tale

Book review: Sleeping dogs, Mark O'Sullivan

Mark O'Sullivan
Mark O'Sullivan
Sleeping Dogs by Mark O'Sullivan

Myles McWeeney

It seems that small-scale crime boss Harry Larkin is just about to become the latest statistic in Dublin's gangland shooting wars. He's taken three bullets and is lying dying in intensive care in hospital when he begs ICU nurse Eveleen Morgan to contact Garda Detective Inspector Leo Woods and give him a message: "Find my daughter Whitney".

The request raises a number of problems. Inspector Woods and Harry Larkin have a very uneasy history going back 30 years and, as far as Larkin's wife Liz – with whom Leo also has a history – and the rest of the family are concerned Whitney is not missing, she's away visiting friends. As a reluctant Leo is once more drawn into the murky world of the Larkins and their associates, he and Detective Sergeant Helen Troy find that Harry's shooting raises more questions than there are answers.

What initially appeared to be a small-time gang beef begins to look as if it may have international ramifications involving Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's downfall. Leo's immediate garda superior warns him off, but the irascible detective inspector is determined to exorcise the uneasy ghosts of his past – at considerable risk to his small team of investigators.

The short-tempered, middle-aged and depressive Inspector Leo Woods, who suffers facial paralysis due to Bell's palsy, made his debut in last year's highly praised thriller Crocodile Tears. This latest instalment builds on that impressive beginning and suggests that Mark O'Sullivan, already a successful author of five young adult novels, is one of the brightest new voices in Ireland's burgeoning crime-writing scene. His plots are pleasingly yet believably complex, his characters well observed with authentic back stories, and his storytelling is laced with mordant wit and sparkling dialogue. Highly recommended.

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