Saturday, December 25, 2010

Adrian McKinty, FIFTY GRAND: Dark, Lush, Bittersweet

Here's a book that came out at the start of 2010, and I've missed it until this week -- and as a result, I kept dodging out of the kitchen to read a few more chapters. Thank goodness, turkey pretty much cooks itself, and the apple cake was done a few weeks ago and set aside in the freezer ... but I did sort of overcook the broccoli. (Sorry, family members!)

It was worth it. FIFTY GRAND by Adrian McKinty, his second crime novel, touches lots of areas that I enjoy: sorting out a father's apparent betrayal of his now grown daughter and son, crossing borders and wrestling with culture clashes, the role of a woman detective in a male-dominated culture.

And it's that woman detective, Detective Mercado, who enthralls in this book. Sneaking across the border from Mexico into the United States with a group of desperate immigrants, she's already at risk, and threatened with rape within hours. A respected detective in Fidel Castro's Cuba -- which is at the transition point as Fidel's brother waits in in the wings -- Mercado needs to know the truth about her father's disappearance and recently reported death. But whether she's a woman in Cuba, an "illegal" in Colorado, or a cop isolated from any team around her, the odds are stacked against her.

Her youth, her loneliness, her gut-level responses to the men who surround her, all are compelling, vivid, poignant, sometimes funny, often heartbreaking, and emphatically real. Here's a taste of her voice: "I'll lean into the confusion. The gray area. The dark. Embrace it. Sleep can wait and prayer can wait and into the comfort of the profane world I'll go."

McKinty's background is about as global as it gets: An Irish novelist born in Belfast and educated at Oxford, he lived in the US in Harlem (New York) and Denver, Colorado, where he taught high school English. Now he lives with his wife and children in Melbourne, Australia. How he mixed Cuban, Mexican, and female experiences in to all that is beyond me -- but the details of FIFTY GRAND ring true, and I'd read another of his crime books (this is his sixth novel but only his second crime one, after Dead I Well May Be) in a heartbeat.

By the way, his blog, called "The Psychopathology of Everyday Life," is well worth a visit.

1 comment:

Paul D. Brazill said...

The opening is so great it's nice that it lives up to it.