Time to shamelessly promote another author, and this time it’s Adrian McKinty–an Irishman who lives in Australia, and if, like me, you are at all interested in Irish crime fiction, then Adrian McKinty is a name to note. Simple as that. McKinty’s Dead Trilogy (also known as the Michael Forsythe Trilogy) is as good as crime fiction gets: dark, hard-boiled, and unrelentingly mean, the trilogy (Dead I May Well Be, The Dead Yard, The Bloomsday Dead) a fantastic exploration of Irish criminal culture follows the explosive criminal career of Michael Forsythe who leaves Ireland and goes to America where he works as an enforcer for Darkey White. If you haven’t read this trilogy, all I can say is ‘what are you waiting for?’ And this brings me to McKinty’s latest book Falling Glass—another hard-boiled crime novel which connects to the Dead Trilogy.
Falling Glass begins with Killian finalising another job as a collector in Boston. It’s St Patrick’s Day, and Killian finds himself in the middle of the celebrations which are rife with faulty Irish folklore and annoying people who’ve never been to Ireland correcting Killian about various aspects of Irish life and culture. This is a great intro to the story because fabrications (lies and BS) play a large role in the story that plays out. Killian is a great story spinner too, and we see this talent when he meets and tries to collect from Marcetti, the man with the overdue debt of “five large.” Killian likes to know understand his quarry–in this case, the respectable suburban husband and father whose secret life has led to a “shark’s enforcer” arriving at his perfect home with its triple garage looking to collect 500,000 the hard way if that’s what it takes.
He could imagine the traj; street or half-street kid, pretty smart, scholarships, college, banking, marries into money, moves to the Boston burbs and gradually migrates north. Perfect until, like some atavistic demon, the grifter comes out: a visit to the local casino, maybe he wins, in any case the hooks are in, he starts playing, starts losing, starts borrowing. In a year, he’s under the ocean, deep down, Robert fucking Ballard territory, the Mariana fucking trench.
After impressing Michael Forsythe with the results of the Boston job, Killian is hired to track down Rachel, the junkie ex-wife of multi-millionaire entrepreneur Richard Coulter. Rachel has gone on the lam with her two small children, and Coulter, who’s remarried to wife number 3 and about to become a father yet again, wants his children back. The word is that Coulter wants to enjoy “one big fucking happy family” according to Killian’s ‘agent’, Sean. Coulter claims that he’s worried about what’ll happen to his children with Rachel back on H, and given Rachel’s history, this seems a very reasonable worry. To sweeten the pot, Coulter offers Killian 500,000 pounds if he’s succeeds in finding his ex- who “is off the deep end.”
With a half-million score at the end of the rainbow, how can Killian refuse? In his own words he’s “semi semi” which translates to mean that he’s trying to go legit. The only problem is that Killian tried to go legit at the wrong time. After quitting “The Life,” and deciding to attend the University of Ulster, he jumped into the property boom. Now he’s “three hundred thousand quid negative equity” on an apartment building that no one wants to buy at the price he needs. So Killian agrees to take the job which appears to be the answer to all his problems–although he has reservations and sniffs that the job “reeks.” Killian discovers, the hard way, that the whole scenario about Rachel left out some important details….
Killian finds himself in Hong Kong where he meets Coulter and his new-wife Helena and gets the details for the job. Coulter claims that he has “proof” that Rachel is using again, and that would certainly explain why she’s dropped out of sight.
We found out she’d disappeared. Stopped using cash machines, only used payphones. Her solicitor doesn’t even know where she is. We thought she’d joined a fucking cult or something.
At first things go smoothly, but then Killian begins to peel away the layers of deceit and discovers the real reasons for Rachel’s flight, and it’s at this point that the situation turns ugly.
One of the reasons I’m a fan of Adrian McKinty’s crime novels is that he creates interesting complex characters. Killian may seem like an affable soul, a good story-teller, a decent man, but as the hunt for Rachel turns into something else, he adapts to circumstances, and we see exactly why he’s easy to underestimate. There’s a meanness there, just below the surface, that Killian is perfectly capable of unleashing when circumstances warrant violence, and since I’m on the subject of violence there is one scene here that is definitely not for the squeamish. But, make no mistake, Killian is the good guy here in a world of corruption and senseless violence. Killian has moral standards he adheres to, and there are some things he will not do for money.
The book also explores Pavee life. Killian is a Pavee, and while that doesn’t mean much to me beyond the vaguest, shapeless idea of caravan life, it means a great deal, apparently, to other Irishmen. Killian, who is from a tribe of Irish Travellers and speaks Shelta, reconnects with his people during the course of the novel, so the story opened up a window into an unknown culture. I knew, of course, about the enmity between the catholics and the protestants, but just how the Pavees fit into this was new to me. This was an interesting twist, and Killian’s background goes a long way to explaining why he’s viewed as a disposable outsider who is not trusted by the people who employ him.
Falling Glass is another intense crime read from McKinty. It’s fast paced and gripping, but loses momentum towards the end, and there was one element to the plot (can’t give it away) that felt a bit tired to this reader. The Dead Trilogy is still IMO, McKinty’s best work, but I have his latest Cold, Cold Ground (Book One: The Troubles Trilogy) just published here in N. America to look forward to.