Clifford steadily securing a place among the crime writing elite

The Deal

Falling in with a bum named Jake is a misstep, but not fatal, and when he is grabbed in the wilds of Kerry for running a grow-house, a veritable cannabis factory, she finds herself presented with the front door of a relationship that was going nowhere anyway.

Instead of running, though, she has the idea of going into business for herself. Unfortunately, she needs start-up money.

Across town, Kevin Wyman is a builder smothering in debt. The problem is that he owes the wrong man. Pascal Nix is the local godfather, a psychotic thug paranoid about his encroaching baldness. He’d helped Wyman with a cash-flow when the banks were finally closing in but, when Wyman’s business went under, the interest on his loan began to spiral. Now, things for Kevin are going from bad to worse; with his marriage on the brink, he embarks on a night of stupidity, a ships-in-the-night tryst with a woman he meets online. Of course, there is a video tape.

Nix runs the underworld, ably abetted by two hitmen, the grossly obese Charlie Small and the blues-obsessed and oddly sensitive Dara Burns, a man with troubles of his own, including a murdered girlfriend and an assassin on his trail. When Karen approaches them with a plan for turning quick and serious cash by renting a few rural properties and making a real go of the grow-house game, Nix pairs her with Wyman, as a way for the builder to work off his debt.

Everything looks to be easy from here, with money to be made for everyone, more than enough to go around, but with a man like Pascal Nix in the background, nothing is straightforward.

Michael Clifford’s latest offering is a relentless, captivating story of greed, immorality, revenge and treachery playing out against the backdrop of an Ireland strangling in a recessionary hold. In these pages, sunshine is at a premium. Reminiscent of the successful Love/Hate television series, The Deal attempts to reflect the grim times in which it was written by distilling reality to the nth degree.

Of the main characters, Karen, Wyman and Burns are particularly well drawn. Enough of their backgrounds are revealed so that we are given a chance to know them; we learn the ways in which their lives are broken, which gives them not only depth but also a certain humanity. In essence, these are ordinary, decent people, and it is intriguing to consider the ease with which they are drawn into criminal activity.

Irish crime fiction is thriving, with the likes of John Banville’s alter-ego Benjamin Black, John Connolly, Tana French, and Ken Bruen all plying their trade at a level high enough to register on the international stage. Following on from last year’s début offering, the impressive Ghost Town, Michael Clifford is steadily building a name for himself among the elite voices of Irish crime fiction. The Deal advances his claim for a seat at the top table.

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