Can Anybody Help Me? by Sinéad Crowley
Quercus, July 2015
Book 1 of Claire Boyd trilogy
Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.
I’ve been trying out quite a few new-to-me authors who are female in the past year, and I’ve specifically taken on old and new writers who write domestic suspense. I liked this book particularly because I liked the lead detective, Guard Claire Boyle, who is quite pregnant during the course of the novel.
Can Anybody Help Me? is a book about a series of murders committed against fellow members of an online parenting and pregnancy support group site netmammy. This particular brand of domestic suspense is quite claustrophobic or laced with a touch of post-partum depression with a number of characters navigating the world of new parenthood. I found the book to be a brisk read: the parenting forums are quite familiar and feel real, there are a reasonable number of plot twists, and though I had a short list of suspects, it was still an enjoyable read.
Other reviews appear in Reviewing the Evidence and Crime Thriller Girl.
Ratlines by Stuart Neville
Soho Press (January 1, 2013)
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Ratlines focuses on the investigation into a series of murders of ex-Nazis who are living in Ireland 18 years after the end of World War II, or the Emergency, as it was called in Ireland. The novel takes place in the weeks leading up to President Kennedy’s first scheduled visit to Ireland. The main character is Albert Ryan, currently employed by the Directorate of Intelligence after a military career (he left Ireland as a teenager to fight with the British in World War II). He is a man who isn’t sure how to have a life outside the military, and he does not feel welcome at home because he fought with the British.
While Albert works for the Irish intelligence agency, his investigation is overseen in part by the Irish Minister of Justice and Colonel Otto Skorzeny, an Austrian ex-Nazi who is the target of the murderers. Albert’s investigation takes him to politicians and military folks, and it’s a very violent investigation.This book is more violent than books I typically read. Also, the book is almost entirely made up of male characters, which is quite a switch from what I usually read.
The novel delves into something I didn’t know about Ireland, namely its harboring of ex-Nazis after World War II. (I thought that was confined to South America.) A ratline is a way out for ex-Nazis: providing them homes and funds to start new lives in new places. This political and historical background is the strongest part of the book. The plot itself is not the strongest part in my opinion because I went into the book expecting a significant amount of violence and crosses and double crosses based on the other Stuart Neville book I read, The Ghosts of Belfast. It is a briskly paced book with a vivid historical background, but the actual resolution of the murders was not the most interesting part of the book for me.
For other reviews of Ratlines, see Raven Crime Reads and Mrs. Peabody Investigates.
I have also reviewed Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast.
Bloodland by Alan Glynn
Publication date: January 31, 2012
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Bloodland is a conspiracy thriller that starts in Ireland with young unemployed journalist Jimmy Gilroy investigating a three-year-old helicopter crash off the Donegal coast which killed tabloid and reality television star Susie Monaghan and five other people. The action also jumps to New York City and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, among other locations. The changes in setting aren’t as difficult to get used to as the large cast of characters, whose connections aren’t clear until well into the first section of the book. It’s a bit disorienting, and I think it’s intentionally so we as readers are in the same position as the investigative journalist who is writing Susie Monaghan’s biography.
Bloodland is the story of powerful men: politicians, public relations executives, or uber-capitalists. It’s about the drive to succeed and amass more and more power and money at the expense of others, be they family members or young miners in the Congo. Finding out what drives the cutthroat characters that populate this book is the most entertaining part of the ride. The characterizations felt believable even though the villains were truly all-around evil.
Finally, the greatest pleasure of the book was the pacing of the action and the revelations about the central conspiracy. Once I got over the initial hump of wondering what the disparate story lines and settings had to do with each other, I marched right through the book.
For other reviews, see Petrona and Reviewing the Evidence.
The Night Swimmer is the story of Elly and Fred, a young couple from Vermont who win a pub in southwest Ireland in a contest. This book is, in part, a story of the end of their marriage. The rest of the story is the tale of being outsiders in a small Irish coastal town. The pub itself is on the mainland, but Elly ends up spending most of her time on a nearby island in order to indulge her love of swimming in open water.
The openingof the book, which covers Elly and Fred’s early years (they meet as literature graduate students), sucked me in. I was expecting the book to be the story of the train wreck of their marriage like Revolutionary Roadby Richard Yates, which Bondurant references early in the book. The fireworks are minimal, though. By the time the couple moves to Ireland, they essentially live apart: Fred on land in the pub, trying to write a novel, and Elly staying on a nearby island and swimming.The book invokes Cheever in a number of ways. Elly, the narrator, wrote her thesis on The Journals of John Cheever, excerpts of which begin every chapter of the book. Instead of swimming in suburban swimming pools like the main character in “The Swimmer,” Elly swims in the sometimes-treacherous open waters. This also feels like Cheever in that the story is of an unhappy couple. Elly and Fred fit the bill, and Fred may even be slightly mentally ill with his obsession with building his own gun, as the time-traveller in his novel will do.Finally, the last pleasure of the book is the evocative setting. Elly describes the weather, the water, the land, and the people of the small town and small island beautifully. There is a bit of a gothic aura to the story of the islanders too.I finished the book slightly disappointed because I wanted a bit more of a plot or a more vicious showdown between Elly and Fred, but that’s not what this book is about. It’s a mood piece of a faltering marriage and of the couple being shunned by the locals and of the wonders of swimming off the south Ireland coast.
THE NIGHT SWIMMER by Matt Bondurant
Publication Date: January 10, 2012
Source: Publisher via NetGalley