Thursday, November 7, 2013

Marie C. reviews The Midnight Choir, by Gene Kerrigan

The Midnight Choir, by Gene Kerrigan. Published 2007 by Europa Editions.

The Midnight Choir is a great crime novel and depicts a whole seedy world of Irish crime, but it is also one of the bleakest books I've read in a while. Basically, this book can be summed up thusly: Life sucks, then you die a horrible meaningless death and nothing changes.

At its heart is the story of Garda Inspector Harry Synnott, who a long time ago got involved in an IRA-related cop killing and ratted out some fellow officers for police brutality. The police still got their man, but they may not have gotten to the truth, and Synnott didn't exactly make friends. Years pass and Synnott, stuck in place career-wise, is offered a shiny sinecure out of the country, if only he can charm the politician making the appointment. On his plate is a rape case and a jewelry theft and things seem to be going well except that another old murder case is about to come back from the dead and ruin everything.

Tangled up in all this is Dixie Peyton, a desperate woman struggling to keep her head above water, and a gang lord named Lar Mackendrick, deranged with grief at the loss of his brother. Dixie needs money and a way out of her troubles; she tries to sell a tip to Synnott regarding the aforementioned Mackendrick but things don't exactly go her way. Things don't go anyone's way in this story, unless you're a bad guy or dead and nothing worse can happen to you.

The Midnight Choir is set in contemporary Dublin, as the Celtic Tiger economic boom was fading but hadn't yet gone completely bust. Everyone's on the downswing, except the criminals. I have to say, Kerrigan draws a pretty convincing picture of all the ways life can go wrong. Poor Dixie. Just when she thinks she's going to skip the country with the payout cash from the corrupt cop and kidnap her kid from foster care- well, I won't spoil it, but, well, you know. It's not pretty. I felt for Dixie. Kerrigan really makes us sympathize with this very troubled and deeply messed up young woman. Synnott I didn't feel about one way or the other. But Dixie and her friend Shelly get my sympathy.

Anyway I'd recommend The Midnight Choir to noir fans and anyone else interested in contemporary Irish literature that isn't about shamrocks and sunshine. So if you're a Maeve Binchy reader this probably isn't for you. I admire Kerrigan's artistry and reportage but man was this a downer.

This is my 15th book for 2013's Europa Challenge. I may not make it to my goal of 24 but I'm back
on the wagon anyway.

2 comments:

  1. Great post on a book I enjoyed a few years ago now. Glad to see you posting a bit more, Marie.

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  2. Loved this book, but then certain kinds of dark really draw me in. Kerrigan is a great writer.

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