Crime debut is bang-on

Ghost Town

Michael Clifford

Hachette Books Ireland, €14.99;

ebook, €9.99

Review: Billy O’Callaghan

Ghost Town starts, literally, with a bang: A failed attempt on crime boss Junior Corbett’s life. Joshua ‘Dancer’ Molloy, who has just returned to Dublin after a drugs-related stint in prison across the water and who is in debt to Corbett, finds himself wrongly implicated in the botched hit. A once-promising footballer who fell victim to the pull of alcohol, all he wants is to clean up his life and start afresh, and to gain access to the son he has never seen.

But this is just the beginning.

Corbett, assisted by his henchman, the savage man in black, Johnny Cash, and a pair of psychopathic underling twins, Kyle and Rocco, is also on the trail of a property-developing solicitor, Donal Diggins. Diggins, a smooth- talking conman, has fled the country after conning hordes of people — Junior among them, to the tune of nearly €2m — into “releasing the equity” on their own homes and investing in dreams, in a fictional African development called Cape Isis and a ghost estate of luxury playboy mansions in deepest Kerry. Diggins’ wife Noelle, also a solicitor, is left to face the music while he trots the globe, indulging himself with cocaine and prostitutes.

And tracking all these men, as well as all other implicated parties, is once-revered crime reporter Alan Slate. Slate is desperately trying to rebuild his career and his life after a tragic mistake that left him ostracised in journalistic circles, and is now writing serious stories for a new and ineptly-run scandal magazine.

This is post-Celtic Tiger Dublin vividly rendered, a treatise of the madness that fuelled the boom and the far-reaching ruin of its bust. Marriages, careers, business associations and even property keep the precarious balance of a house of cards. In a world that has all-but fallen apart, there is very little left to lose.

The fast-paced, twist-heavy plot forms an intricate web, with all of the main players being drawn towards the inevitable conclusion of a captivating wild west Kerry showdown.

Michael Clifford, one of the country’s highly respected reporters and columnists, has previously enjoyed success with such non-fiction works as Love You to Death: Ireland’s Wife Killers Revealed, Bertie Ahern and the Drumcondra Mafia and Scandal Nation. Ghost Town marks his first foray into fiction and it is an impressive and triumphant debut, astute in its social observations and gripping as a piece of entertainment. Mr Clifford’s assured voice is a welcome addition to the canon of Irish crime fiction.

* Michael Clifford will read in Áras Beanntraí at 10.45pm on Wednesday, July 11, as part of the 2012 West Cork Literary Festival.


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