One year on, DI Mike Mulcahy is exactly where he wants to be, co-ordinating international intelligence for the Garda National Drugs Unit. With Ireland in economic turmoil, he reckons solving the mystery of how a €100 million shipment of cocaine came to be abandoned off the south coast might save his team from the harsh government cutbacks
It was rather pleasing to see DUBLIN DEAD, mostly because O'Donovan's first book, The Priest, actually managed to get me to rethink my "over serial killer" books stance. So no pressure on this one... at all.
There is some reference back to The Priest in DUBLIN DEAD, which is unavoidable really given that both books feature journalist Siobhan Fallon and policeman DI Mike Mulcahy. If you've not read the earlier book, that shouldn't put you off completely, as there is some recapping of what happened, particularly to Siobhan. Whilst it should be enough to allow new readers to not get lost, and returning readers to avoid rehashing old events, the scope of the tentative friendship / attraction between Fallon and Mulcahy could be a little less clear. That's probably the only flaw in the rationale of the book - whilst it's not unknown for journalists and policemen to co-operate for expediency's sake, the level of connection between these two could be confusing without knowing how the working relationship got started.
What is substantially different in DUBLIN DEAD is the nature of this plot - which is multi-threaded and based around gangsters, drug dealing, an inexplicable suicide, an armed hitman and a missing woman. Obviously in this sort of book, you'd be perfectly entitled to assume that these threads are going to end up somehow connected, but even allowing for that expectation I must admit I did not see how or where O'Donovan was going to be able to do that. Especially as the book does take a while to get going, so a lot needed to happen in a hurry to tie off the events. The earlier part of the book is spent teasing out the various connections, Fallon and Mulcahy both coming to the centre from a range of different threads. As in the first book, there is another Spanish / Irish connection ... this time because an Irish gangster dies in Spain, at the same time that Irish police are looking into a massive drugs haul on a yacht off the coast of Cork. There's obviously something in these connections that the author likes, or maybe it's more common in Ireland and Spain than we know about in this corner of the world!
One of the most interesting aspects of DUBLIN DEAD for me anyway, was the comparisons with the earlier book. The switch from the enclosed, creepy serial killer storyline to drugs, gangsters, hitmen and violent murder gave the author a nicely complicated plot to pull together. Compared to that very personal feeling of threat of the earlier storyline, DUBLIN DEAD had a wider scope, a greater capacity for a true thriller style chase, and somehow a threat that seemed less personal and more professional, a hitman, after all, just doing a job. That change in focus also meant that there seems to have been a subtle change in the author's viewpoint. The two main characters - Fallon and Mulcahy are under pressure undoubtedly, but somehow because the threat was more professional (measured / deliberate) which seemed less personal (unpredictable / mad / off kilter), it seems that there was an opportunity for a bit more exploration of personal vulnerability and frailty.
I remember thinking after The Priest that these two could make a very interesting duo into the future, and DUBLIN DEAD is still encouraging that feeling. Whilst I really enjoyed the first book, I found DUBLIN DEAD to be even better, so now I'm hoping for not just a third book, but a fourth and maybe more in the Fallon and Mulcahy series.
THE PRIEST - Gerard O'Donovan
His name is THE PRIEST.
His weapon is A CRUCIFIX.
His victims don't have A PRAYER.
A killer is stalking the dark streets of Dublin. Before each attack, he makes the sign of the cross; then he sends his victims to God.
Serial killer storylines. We've all said it. Over it. One more serial killer storyline and I swear..... So I'll adjust previous assertions and instead say I'm over SOME serial killer storylines.
THE PRIEST, the first crime novel from Irish author Gerard O'Donovan has a serial killer that actually doesn't kill all of his victims. Instead they are horribly injured, disfigured, tortured and abused, but they don't all die. And our serial attacker is one of those mad, bad, weird religious nutter types - the burns that he leaves his victim's with eventually reveal that he's using some sort of Cross shaped implement. Needless to say, the nickname of "The Priest". That probably means a whole lot of reasons why you'd think twice before picking up this book.
But there are a lot of things going for this book. For a start it's mercifully free of the dreaded "in the serial killer's head" viewpoint. Secondly, some of his victims do survive - albeit maimed and dreadfully injured. This gives some opportunity for some interesting twists in the personal stories, in particular, of the first victim. Jesica Salazar is the much loved daughter of an older man - a high-ranking Spanish Diplomat, in Dublin for just a short time to experience a different culture, she is found after an evening out in a nightclub, alive but battered and horribly burnt. The sex crimes team steps into the investigation, headed by Claire Brogan. DI Mike Mulcahy has recently returned from a high-profile specialist drug investigation position in Spain, and he's not best pleased at all when he's seconded to the team. They need somebody to translate, and when he steps into a disagreement between a Spanish Official and one of the team, he's even more involved as the Spanish authorities look to him. Which means nobody is pleased. Not the team, not Mike. Add the character of journalist Siobhan Fallon who is as fearless in her journalism as she is insecure about her personal life.
Mulcahy is a good central character, of the slighly embittered, strong willed, grumpy type. He's an extremely likeable sort of character - vaguely reminiscent of Rebus, but I'm prepared to give O'Donovan the benefit of the doubt over the naming of journalist Siobhan Fallon. The tentative relationship between these two has a feeling of reality about it - particularly when the roles of Journalist and Detective Inspector clash.
Alongside excellent characterisations and a really good example of team policing tension, there's a pretty good plot here. The tension doesn't let up in THE PRIEST - possibly because you know that this killer doesn't always kill his victims, partly because he presents such an obvious danger as there appears to be no predictability to actions. The only downside really is a slightly heavy-handed and predictable use of descriptive language, which smacked a little too much of some sort of writing police talk manual and didn't always feel all that authentic. Having said that, despite the serial killer theme, I really enjoyed THE PRIEST and am intrigued by the prospect of a pairing of Mulcahy and Fallon. Hopefully there will be more books featuring one or both of these characters.
ALL THE DEAD VOICES - Declan Hughes
Ed Loy has made some changes. He has moved into a flat in Dublin's city centre, leaving the family home behind. Maybe now he can break free from the ghosts of his past.
But when a fifteen-year-old murder case is re-opened, Loy is hired by the victim's daughter to investigate the suspects ignored by the first investigation: a rich property developer, an ex-IRA man and Loy's least favourite sociopath, George Halligan.
Grant me a moment here, but Ed Loy is well and truly back and I'm more than a little bit happy about that! ALL THE DEAD VOICES is a really tense, investigative novel with a just a touch of the thriller about it. The action is swift, the tension carefully ramped up and the plot nicely complicated. The details are carefully laid out, allowing the reader to keep up, sort it out, decide for themselves, pick up the clues along the way. Provided you're concentrating.
In 1980 two IRA men are hiding beside a roadway, ready to detonate the bomb destined to kill a hated judge. Just as well this is a carefully planned operation, as the two killers do not get on - much to the amusement of their colleagues.
Current day and Ed is moving on, by moving house, clearing his head, getting his edge back. He's doing a little low key watching of an up and coming footballer - Paul Delany. His half-brother Dessie's a bit suspicious that Paul might be dealing heroin on the side, and living in Greece there's not much he can do about it himself. A threatening moment at a football match and Paul's reaction reassures Loy something's going on; the couple of young hoods that have a go at him in an alley late at night reinforce that. But Loy had just left them a bit bruised and battered - their turning up dead is definitely not down to him, even if the police aren't so convinced.
Meanwhile, Loy is approached by Anne Fogarty, who thinks that the police have got the wrong man for the killing of her father, fifteen years ago. Anne's father had been a revenue inspector, involved in the investigation of some very dodgy people: Jack Cullen, ex-IRA now gang leader; Bobby Doyle, ex-IRA now property developer, and George Halligan - Loy's least favourite sociopath. Oh, and because it never rains but it pours, something is brewing in the Cullen camp and Comerford is convinced that somebody is leaking information about drug smuggling to the police, and he wants Ed to find out who.
One of the things that I really like about the Ed Loy books is that the plots are crowded, complicated and not always made up of obviously intersecting threads. ALL THE DEAD VOICES has that lightening pace, as well as the swirling list of links, possible links, gangs, impending violence, past violence and secrets. It's that wheedling out of secrets that Ed Loy does best of all, well that along with juggling all the goings on, surviving the occasional beating up and reluctant, but efficient, dishing out of the occasional thumping. Ed's style of investigating is very much the "prod something a bit and wait for the ripples to spread" methodology, but it's effective, partly because he's not too afraid to prod where others may not dare, and he's well aware of the circles in which he is moving.
After being slightly less enthusiastic about the last Ed Loy outing, ALL THE DEAD VOICES is not only a return to the standard of the first books in the series, it has a touch of the moving on about it. Loy's not standing still, and neither should readers - regardless of whether you're already a fan, or this will be a new encounter for you.
The earlier books in the series are:
The Wrong Kind of Blood
The Colour of Blood
The Dying Breed