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The Book Brief - Pick of the week: The Dirty South

Thriller: The Dirty South

John Connolly

Hodder & Stoughton, 480 pages, hardcover €14.99; e-book £10.99

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The Dirty South by John Connolly

The Dirty South by John Connolly

'Tall Tales and Wee Stories', by Billy Connolly.

'Tall Tales and Wee Stories', by Billy Connolly.

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

'Killing for Company', by Brian Masters.

'Killing for Company', by Brian Masters.

'Enola Holmes', by Nancy Springer.

'Enola Holmes', by Nancy Springer.

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The Dirty South by John Connolly

It's 1997 and Bill Clinton has recently been elected president of the United States. As far as the people of Burdon County, Arkansas are concerned, particularly the wealthy and powerful and corrupt Cade clan, their State's former governor's elevation to the highest office in the land will result in shed-loads of money flowing into the local economy.

There is only one fly in the ointment, and that is that someone is slaughtering young local black women, an activity that, if widely publicised, would certainly result in prospective corporate investor - missile component makers Kovas Industries - diverting their cash to Texas. Fortunately these gruesome deaths have so far been deemed accidental and unrelated thanks to the fact that Jurel Cade, one of family patriarch Pappy Cade's sons, heads up the local State troopers.

But when former NYPD detective Charlie Parker turns up in Cargill, Burdon's main town, he threatens to stir things up. Parker is in deep mourning, having recently lost his wife and young daughter in a horrifically violent murder. Bent on revenge, he is travelling America seeking out similar cases that might offer clues to the man who killed his loved ones. When Cargill's incorruptible sheriff, Evan Griffiths, discovers who Charlie is, he swears him in as a temporary deputy and together they take on the vested interests who will stop at nothing, not even murder, to ensure Burdon County remains an attractive investment opportunity.

This may be John Connolly's 18th Charlie Parker novel, but it reads as if the series has just been freshly minted. It is also one of his best, a complex well-plotted mystery delivered via witty laugh-out-loud dialogue and peopled with vividly macabre characters. A terrific read.

Myles McWeeney

 

 

Young Adult: Enola Holmes

Nancy Springer

Hot Key Books, 176 pages, paperback €12; e-book £7.99

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'Enola Holmes', by Nancy Springer.

'Enola Holmes', by Nancy Springer.

'Enola Holmes', by Nancy Springer.

 

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes's sister, Enola, has been a popular attraction on Netflix over the past few weeks and here's the source material: a lively book for 12 to 18-year-olds. American fantasy and young adult writer Nancy Springer has written several tales inspired by the intrepid Enola and this one - The Case of the Missing Marquess - finds her trying to track down her mother who has gone missing. But she takes on more than she bargains for, including a mystery surrounding the kidnapping of a young marquess and the dangers posed by murderous villains. And she's got her older brother Sherlock to contend with too. Which of them will solve the mystery?

John Meagher

 

Memoir: Tall Tales and Wee Stories

Billy Connolly

Two Roads, 336 pages,

paperback €13; e-book £5.99

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'Tall Tales and Wee Stories', by Billy Connolly.

'Tall Tales and Wee Stories', by Billy Connolly.

'Tall Tales and Wee Stories', by Billy Connolly.

 

By any measure, Billy Connolly is one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time. When he retired in 2018, he left behind half-a-century of belly-laughs and gags. Unlike many of his peers, he never wrote the jokes down: he relied on his own energy and an ability to think super-quick. This book brings together the best of his stories - those he can remember - and offers something of a potted history of a life of spontaneous performance on stage. There are witty accounts of his early life, his colourful relations and his Irish heritage. There's a hilarious account of a meal in Ireland in which Connolly has great fun dissecting a sparsely written menu, offering 'potatoes of the night'.

John Meagher

 

Non-fiction: Killing for Company

Brian Masters

Arrow, 368 pages, paperback €13; e-book £0.99

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'Killing for Company', by Brian Masters.

'Killing for Company', by Brian Masters.

'Killing for Company', by Brian Masters.

 

In the gruesome annals of British serial killers, Dennis Nilsen's name looms large - and with good reason. Over a period of five years, from 1978 to 1983, he is known to have murdered 12 men and boys, most of them gay, and attempted to kill a further seven. This thought-provoking book - winner of the Gold Dagger award for non-fiction crime writing - was penned in full cooperation with Nilsen in the years before his 2018 death. It offers a stark account of his killings and an insight into a deeply troubled mind. The book was the inspiration for the recent BBC drama series, Des, which starred David Tennant as Nilsen and Jason Watkins as biographer Brian Masters.

John Meagher

 

Thriller: Stone Cold Trouble

Amer Anwar

Dialogue Books, 464 pages, paperback €12.15; e-book £5.99

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Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

Stone Cold Trouble by Amer Anwar

 

Zaq Khan and his friend Jags are part of the teeming Asian community that inhabit Southall in west London. Zaq is free after serving five years for assault, even though he had only been acting in self-defence. However, when his younger brother is beaten up so severely that he is put into an induced coma, Zaq swears violent revenge when he finds those responsible, but must tread carefully if he is not to end up back in jail. At the same time, Jags' uncle Lucky falls foul of a crooked businessman, and when the two boys try to help, they land in very dangerous waters. A raw slice of Asian noir that gives a fascinating glimpse into a colourful community.

Myles McWeeney


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