These summer crime reads are the real Deal

CRIME fiction is regarded as a good vehicle for reflecting the times in which it is written.

I attempted to do just that in my book The Deal, which is based around the cannabis growhouse business.

The criminal enterprise is a growing phenomenon, being discovered almost weekly in quiet residential neighbourhoods all over the country. Another aspect that interests me is the potential for otherwise law-abiding people to get involved in crime.

The main character in The Deal is a young woman named Karen Riney who has returned to the country after a decade abroad to find there is no outlet for her entrepreneurial talents. She decides to get involved and run a growhouse, as you might any other normal business.

She goes into business with an out-of-work builder, who also would never normally get involved in anything criminal. Like many others today, Kevin Wyman overstretched himself and got into some serous debt, most of it not with your friendly banker, but a decidedly unfriendly loan shark.

Out of such a premise, The Deal was plotted. I hope that it says something about Ireland today and provides an entertaining read. For me, that is what the crime novel is all about. Certainly, all of my favourites books in the genre do just that, whether they be based in Sligo or California, New York or the streets of Dublin.

Below are 10 of my favourite crime novels, all of which would make great holiday reading.

1. Slaughter’s Hound (Liberties) Declan Burke:

Harry Rigby is a private eye who graduated from that school that produces bitter human beings who dispense rough justice and sardonic wit. His type has been found in American cities throughout the last century, but Harry’s world is not LA or New York, but the mean streets of Sligo. Back in town after a forced sojourn, he witnesses an old friend plummet to his death. Thereafter, he applies himself to finding out whether the incident was an accident or murder. Declan Burke is a bright, shining light of Irish crime fiction, and his latest book is a thoroughly enjoyable romp through one corner of Ireland in the early 21st century.

2. Live By Night (Harper Collins) Denis Lehane:

A slice of prohibition era gangsterism is served up by Lehane in this novel that pipped Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl for the prestigious Edgar award for crime writing in the USA.

Vice and virtue compete as Joe Coughlin tries to make his way in the world, starting out in Boston, spending time in a federal prison and moving to Florida where he entered the big-time world of bootlegging.

3. The Cut (Hachette) George Pelecanos:

Spero Lucas is back from the Iraq war and trying to turn a buck as an investigator who offers to locate stolen property for a 40% cut.

He gets employed by a criminal figure and finds himself drawn into a web of deceit. Pelecanos has been bringing his native Washington DC to life over the last 20 years with some fine writing, and this is among his best.

4. Dark Tales of the City (Harvill Secker) Gene Kerrigan.

Two guys walk into a Dublin pub intent on killing a small-time criminal, but Danny Callaghan intervenes to save the man’s life. That instinctive act ultimately draws him into a power-play among the city’s major crime gangs. Kerrigan has won major plaudits and awards for his most recent novel, The Rage, but this preceding tome is a serious piece of work, entertaining, insightful and very well written.

5. The Hot Kid (Harper Collins) Elmore Leonard

Set in Oklahoma in the 1930s, this is one of Leonard’s finest books, combining his greatest gifts of sharp dialogue, twisting plots and evocation of a time and place. Leonard is regarded among his peers as the finest crime writer at work today, but many consider him one of the best around, period — as they say Stateside.

6. Too Close For Comfort (Transworld Ireland), Niamh O’Connor

Jo Birminghan, a detective inspector who is rapidly climbing through the ranks of the Garda Siochána has featured in all of O’Connor’s novels and this case involves a dead body found in the Wicklow mountains, in what appears to be an open and shut case. O’Connor’s series is well plotted and well paced and this one stands out.

7. Hit and Run (Harper Collins) Lawrence Block

Keller is a hit man for hire whose main hobby is collecting stamps. He has come out of retirement for one more job, but pretty soon he cops that he himself is the target. Block is one of the most proficient crime writers in America, having created a number of recurring characters, of which Keller is among his best.

8. No Country For Old Men (Alfred Knopf) Cormac McCarthy

You’ve probably seen the Coen brothers movie, but it’s not as good as the original novel. McCarthy packs a serious punch as he creates the border region of the USA in the early 1980s when the drugs business was taking a serious hold on criminals and any concept of basic morality.

9. Nobody Move (Picador) Denis Johnson

A brief romp through the lowlife fraternity on the west coast of the USA, this novel is sparsely written, with wonderful dialogue, a cast of desperate characters and brimming with dark humour.

10. The Secret History (Alfred A Knopf) Donna Tartt

The story is set in a small, elite college in New England, where six classical students find themselves at the centre of a murder mystery. The book was a publishing sensation when first published 20 years ago, and has lost none of its allure.

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