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Black Irish: A Novel Hardcover – February 26, 2013
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*Starred Review* Detective Absalom Kearny of the Buffalo (NY) PD is caring for her aged, adoptive father, John, a legendary, former detective himself. Smart and driven, Abbie is seen by fellow cops as a rising star. But she may be too driven, and the savage torture-murder of Jimmy Ryan, a resident of the city’s clannish Irish enclave, “the County,” drives her toward obsession. More grisly murders occur, and even though Abbie grew up in the County, no one will talk with her, even though many know what is happening; the County avenges its own. Talty, author of several lauded nonfiction books (Agent Garbo, 2012), has produced a suspenseful debut novel with a circuitous plot. Abbie is a wonderfully complex and conflicted character, but it is the County—which may exist in Buffalo and certainly exists in other northeastern cities—that shines brightest. It’s a place where a boy whose people came from Mayo isn’t allowed to date a Kilkenny girl, and its residents share an “ancestral memory of being oppressed in a country they’d never been to.” Economically ravaged Buffalo is portrayed in broader brushstrokes, but the sense of place is palpably evocative. Black Irish is simply a riveting read. --Thomas Gaughan
“Abbie Kearney is one of the most intriguing new suspense protagonists in memory, and Black Irish marks the captivating start of a brilliant thriller series.”—Tess Gerritsen
“Luxuriantly cinematic . . . a compulsively readable crime thriller . . . Move over V. I. Warshawski; Buffalo gets its own crime novel heroine.”—The Buffalo News
“A suspenseful debut novel with a circuitous plot . . . Black Irish is simply a riveting read.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Talty shows his chops when recounting [Buffalo’s] Irish roots.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Talty does a fine job portraying the cohesiveness of the Irish, their loyalty to one another, and their obsession with their history. . . . A memorable story of betrayal and vengeance.”—Publishers Weekly
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Top Customer Reviews
Enter Absolam "Abbie" Kearny. Despite growing up in the County, she has always been a kind of outsider. Adopted at a young age by John Kearny, a local police legend, she has now returned to follow in her father's infamous footsteps. Tasked with the Ryan case, she is quickly met with resistance from the local townspeople and police.
The County is mostly made up of Irish immigrants. As Abbie digs deeper into the murder, connections, both historical and personal, begin to reveal themselves. As further murders occur, Abbie struggles to stay ahead of the killer. The Buffalo police run an investigation parallel to hers, and Abbie soon finds herself a suspect in the case. As the tension rises Abbie is forced to question her sanity and family history, all culminating in a shocking twist that is sure to leave readers riveted.
With his debut work of fiction, Stephan Talty instantly places himself among the great modern thriller authors such as Dennis Lehane and Tana French. Like Lehane and French, Talty manages to maintain exceptional characters, setting and suspense without ever sacrificing the integrity of his writing. This novel could have easily become a standard thriller, but Talty daftly takes his time to build each character, allowing the suspense to stay at a constant boil. In Abbie, Talty has imagined a believable protagonist, whose flaws and vulnerability allows readers to connect with her emotions and desire to succeed. I was hooked on this novel from beginning to end. Fascinated by the serial killer who tells, "his autobiography through corpses", I was shocked at the final turn that the events took. This exceptional novel has everything thriller fans have come to expect and gives them more than they could ever have hoped for.
This is the author's first fiction book, and he does a masterful job of making Buffalo come alive, a serious rival to New York City at the beginning of the 20th century but now a husk of its former glory -- who knew? Divided into "the County" in the south, where the Irish live, the East, where the blacks live, and the North, where the rich white people live, Buffalo is a hotbed of uncooperative people. Even the victims' families aren't trying to help the investigation. As Abbie deals with everything from apathy to hostility her detective skills are apparent, and the book is fun to read. The author is a fine writer, lending insight to family relationships as well as the history of the city. His phrasing is often quite evocative, and has a distinctive noir flavor. People in Niagara Falls are "spillover from the normal world that piled up at border crossings like refuse at a sewer grate". Love that.
I would give this series debut 4-1/2 stars. I guess there are two ways to look at the ending. It's a good twist, but I think it kind of comes out of nowhere. There should have been more foreshadowing or clues. That said, though, I really liked the mystery, the character of Abbie and this glimpse into the interesting small city of Buffalo, New York.
Read the books in order because reference is made to this crime's solution in book 2, Hangman.
The characters in this mystery are complex and even flawed, as is the place they are from, The County, otherwise known as Buffalo to the rest of us. They live hard, play hard, and drink hard. They are Irish.
An Irish Clan? The connections to Irish history and Northern Ireland were really interesting. They added a depth to the story that helped place it in a time and place.
The mystery gets more complicated as the story continues. Why does the killer seem familiar? What does this have to do with her history? What do the monkeys from the barrel have to do with anything?
By time I got near to the end of this book, I was getting really annoyed by any distractions. I had to tell the dogs, "You were just outside yesterday!" This is a satisfying and enjoyable mystery.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Would make a great movie.