What is it about the Irish and crime fiction? For some reason, the gray, rain-swept isle seems to produce crime scribes a plenty, writers who pen plots that hit the gut hard as a shot of Jameson and create protagonists as world-weary as a priest after hearing a week's worth of confessions. Talents such as Tana French and Adrian McKinty have shaped this poignant, ferocious literary landscape. Now Declan Hughes makes his mark with The Wrong Kind of Blood, the first entry in his ongoing series about expatriate Irish private investigator Ed Loy.
Ireland slips back around you like an old glove. At least it feels that way to Ed Loy. Sure, he's only been back home for a few days, returning from the sunny anonymity of Los Angeles to bury his mother, but he still feels the familiarity of every contour. The almost-entwining pair of apple trees in his mum's garden. The suave brutality of the local drug dealer. The easy sensuality of old friend Linda Dawson. Linda certainly hasn't changed. Never one for propriety, she begs Loy to find her missing husband mere hours after his mother is in the ground. He decides to try to help her, but he soon learns that, for all the Irish familiarity, something's different. Cranes scrape the big cities' skylines, evidence of a building boom that's reshaping ancient streets. Yet no amount of new construction can cover over crimes. Blood will always cry out from the ground.
One could best describe Hughes' debut book as a hardboiled mystery, emphasis on "mystery." Every time Loy cuts close to the novel's central conundrum, it splits off and forms an entirely new dilemma of its own. The story gets so twisty that you almost feel like you need a flow chart for the final chapter, a complicated denouement that tries to tie up each and every loose end. But the liberally sprinkled action sequences and tongue-in-cheek commentary on modern Ireland keeps Blood flowing on through the overly complex parts. An enjoyable if not revolutionary read.
(Picture: CC 2006 by Monosnaps)