Tuesday 24 October 2017

Review: The Rage by Gene Kerrigan

(Harvill Secker, €13.99) Paperback

You can make a strong argument that this is a particularly special time for Irish crime fiction. The likes of Declan Hughes, Declan Burke and the peerless Ken Bruen are all Irish crime writers who have made the global crime writing community sit up and take notice of what has traditionally been a rather moribund genre.

And, of course, Gene Kerrigan is a leading light in this band of writers.

One of the most well-respected journalists in the country, his columns with the Sunday Independent are considered by many to be a must-read every week.

And he has already brought his skills as a social commentator in newsprint to books with the likes of Little Criminals, The Midnight Choir and, of course most recently, Dark Times In The City, his most successful novel to date and the recipient of a nomination for a CWA Gold Dagger Award.

So, first things first -- does The Rage match the splendour of Dark Time In The City? Well, for Kerrigan fans they will be relieved to know that the answer is a resounding yes.

Swapping his commentary role for a more socially analytical one, he paints a Dublin that is all too sadly familiar -- broken down by the economic crisis, full of lost souls trying to keep their heads above water and, of course, the wolves who prey on them.

While investigating the mysterious death of a banker -- not an occasion to have to many people reaching for their hankies, it must be said -- Detective Sergeant Bob Tidey gets a call from retired nun Maura Coady, an acquaintance from an old case. The nun is concerned about a suspicious-looking car in the normally quiet side street where she lives -- an innocent enough call to make at the time yet one which will ultimately set in train a series of events that will change everyone involved forever.

Meanwhile, recently released thief Vincent Naylor is quickly getting back into his stride.

Alongside his brother Noel, and at the behest of a local criminal, they come up with a scam to rob a cash- delivery van.

And after kidnapping a van driver and threatening to feed him into a wood chipper (or wood chopper, as Naylor calls it) if he doesn't give them the security details they need to pull off the job, the driver's information makes things look like they're going according to plan. But not for long.

It transpires that the gun which kills the banker was used before in a murder on the Northside and Tidey begins to scent as yet undiscernable pattern.

The nun, haunted by her own ghosts from her time in the church, has unwittingly unleashed chaos when it becomes clear that the car on her street is a planned getaway vehicle -- following a robbery on a security van.

When the robbery goes wrong, and people get shot, Naylor sets out for revenge and the die is cast.

Written with Kerrigan's trademark sparse style, it rattles along the way all good crime fiction should, and even manages to deal with the emotional fallout of the characters in a way that avoids the frequently embarrassing treatment of such topics in much of this genre.

As Tidey, a suitably grizzled yet sympathetic character (who is almost a bit like an Irish version of Detective Lennie Briscoe from Law And Order) says towards the end of the novel: "I'm not who I set out to be -- not any longer. And I don't know where it goes from here."

In fact, that's a pretty bloody good description of the city itself.

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