Tuesday 23 January 2018

Review: Thriller: Blood Loss by Alex Barclay

HarperCollins £12.99 tpbk
Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350

Alex Barclay has to be the best-looking thriller writer in Ireland . . . and possibly anywhere else for that matter. She also happens to be one of the best. She will be able to star in her own movies when they start turning her bestselling books into films.

Born in Dublin in 1974, Alex Barclay studied journalism and had a successful career in fashion writing before turning to copywriting. But she always knew she wanted to do "real" writing and gave up her job in advertising in 2003 to write a book.

Two years later, in 2005, Darkhouse was published. A gripping, if grim and violent, tale about unspeakable serial killers, it was set mostly in the USA. At the more extreme end of the noir crime novel scale and about ultra violent serial killers, Darkhouse shot to the top of the best sellers list on both sides of the Atlantic, establishing Barclay as a crime novelist to watch.

Her follow-up, The Caller, was set in the southwest of Ireland and also featured Darkhouse hero NYPD Joe Lucchesi. It, too, climbed high in the sales charts internationally and copper-fastened Barclay's reputation in the top echelon of Irish crime writers.

Then came a total sea change. Despite the success of her Joe Lucchesi novels, Barclay decided to park him, and for her third thriller, Blood Runs Cold, created a completely new central character, Denver FBI Special Agent Ren Bryce. In that book, Bryce investigates the violent death of a colleague whose body is found near the beautiful Colorado town of Breckenridge.

Ren Bryce, a troubled and troubling soul, struck an immediate chord with Alex Barclay's extensive fan base and turned out to be just as successful as her preceding novels. (Incidentally, the new heroine's first name, Ren, is a contraction of Orenda, a native American name meaning "Magic Power").

Blood Loss is the third novel in the Bryce series. It opens with Denver citizen Mark Whaley and his family checking in to a new resort hotel in Breckenridge. The Whaleys arrange a babysitter and go downstairs to have dinner.

When Whaley goes to check on their children, he finds his baby son traumatised and his 11-year-old daughter and the 16-year-old baby-sitter missing. There are signs of violence in the room. This is the second violent crime in the area, as just days before a teenage girl had been beaten and raped in the grounds of a derelict lunatic asylum on the outskirts of town.

As the mercurial and reckless Bryce -- she suffers from full-blown Bipolar Disorder and has stopped taking her medication -- investigates, she discovers major inconsistencies in the stories of all the main protagonists. When doors are slammed in her face, even by her own bosses, she realises she has stumbled on a conspiracy involving a major pharmaceutical firm desperate to prevent its dark secrets being exposed by whistle blowers.

Snappy dialogue, Ren Bryce's hugely irreverent internal musings and a searing exposé of a section of the pharmaceutical industry's excesses deliver a meaty read.

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