Sunday, June 05, 2016

Irish Noir and Heartbreak in SILENCE, Anthony Quinn

The arrival of an "international" mystery on the American market can be a mystery in itself. Irish bestselling author Anthony Quinn isn't well known -- yet -- on this side of the Atlantic, but thanks to the partnership of the Mysterious Press (Otto Penzler's creation) and Open Road Media (!), Quinn's third in his Inspector Celcius Daly series, SILENCE, is now available here.

What a great Irish police investigation! Inspector Daly is in the confusing passage of midlife as a police officer in Ireland, where "The Troubles" are supposed to be over and recovered from -- including a posh new headquarters for the police force in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In fact, policing is supposed to be free of the past, and highly professional. But Daly, in many ways a traditional police detective, isn't sure why Special Branch is housed in the same new building. Still, when Special Branch shows up at a car crash that Daly's investigating, he's sure there are powerful disclosures ahead about the victim, Father Aloysius Walsh.

What Daly doesn't expect is a personal involvement in the investigation. Father Walsh, he soon discovers, had been investigating a set of nearby murders that took place in the heyday of The Troubles, and the map of killings includes the family home where Daly still resides, alone, as his parents are dead and he really has no other personal life around him. Living in this monument to vanished parents becomes nearly intolerable when Father Walsh's murder map reveals Daly's own, unknowing role in the horrors of the past.

First, though, he'll need to try to understand the victim, this priest sprawled in a crushed car that's somehow flown off the road by some traffic cones, and into disaster.
He looked unhappy to have ended up like this, a grisly spectacle of motoring misdirection.

However, the most poignant element of the scene lay in the strange object the dead man gripped in his right hand. Daly narrowed the beam on to the stiffened fingers, which were wrapped around an untidy braid of children's rosary beads and holy medals, strands of charms tied up with wisps of broken string. He stared at this twisted pigtail of religious effects and wondered what significance they had for the dead priest. Did they represent a cry for spiritual assistance, or something more sinister? ...

The more Daly looked at the strange bundle, the more it spoke to him of something more personal: his own religion. ... He still felt the soothing power of the Church's symbols, the rosary beads and the miraculous medals, and he worried that if he removed them completely from his life, he might find himself pulled down a tapering funnel into a deeper darkness. 
In this third in the Inspector Daly series, Daly finds his sanity and his job on the line, as well as his life. Here's a tightly plotted and psychologically compelling crime novel of "today's Northern Ireland" -- and it turns out that The Troubles are far from over.

Highly recommended, even if the author does slip into a momentary jest about the crime fiction of the leader of today's Irish noir, Stuart Neville. (Watch for that moment.) Quinn's awards and nominations are quickly piling up; it's time to catch up with, and enjoy, his evocative and well-paced writing.

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