The great thing about the crime fiction genre is the breadth of styles that it encompasses. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve read books that focus on the domestic, dark noir tales and political thrillers. But some crime novels can be truly creepy and Louise Phillips’s Last Kiss reminds us how scary stories can get. She’s a writer who is completely new to me. However, I wanted to read some Irish crime fiction and her books have been garnering rave reviews.
In a Dublin hotel room, a man is found butchered with a knife and his body arranged in a form similar to the hangman in tarot. Criminal psychologist, Dr Kate Pearson is asked to help investigate the murder and she discovers disturbing links with similar killings both inside and outside Ireland. Cassandra is a murderer who, with one exception, kills only men. However, her latest sexual conquest, Edgar, is someone special and she intends to keep hold of him, even if it entails entering his domestic life.
Standalone thrillers work well because there is a feeling that anything could happen. There is no need to hold onto characters for sequels and there’s a sense of completion at the end of the books. The character of the killer dominates the narrative and there’s a strong sense of menace from the start. The suspicions of her new sexual conquest’s wife, Sandra, make difficult reading at times. She is being manipulated but also has the strength of character to fight back.
With the criminal psychologist, Kate Pearson, we are on more traditional crime fiction territory but the presence of the tarot cards in the victims’ mouths adds an unusual twist. Last Kiss isn’t a book for the faint-hearted but it is lovely and creepy and it’s nice to read something out of the ordinary.
Thanks to Hachette Ireland for my review copy.
This is my first review of an audio book because, although I’m a subscriber to Amazon’s Audible account, to date I’ve only ever downloaded books that I’ve already read in print form. But last month, stumped for something to listen to, I contacted Bernadette from Reactions to Reading. As readers of Bernadette’s blog will know, she regularly reviews audio books and she suggested I try Adrian McKinty’s Falling Glass. McKinty is a relatively new author for me, although I enjoyed the excellent Cold Cold Ground, so I was interested to give one of his earlier books a go.
Rachel Coulter, the ex-wife of the famous Irish airline entrepreneur Richard Coulter, has disappeared with their two children. Although he has information that she is hiding out at one of Ireland’s caravan parks, an attempt to seize back the children ends disastrously. Killian, fresh from a successful debt collection job in New Hampshire is called in by Coulter to track down Rachel and retrieve the missing children. Killian is confident that he will find the missing family and is successfully on Rachel’s trail when Coulter’s team realise that she is also in possession of an incriminating laptop. They hire a tougher enforcer to follow Killian and ensure the laptop is retrieved at any cost. Markov, a former Russian soldier and veteran of the Chechen conflict ensures that a routine job becomes a murderous spree.
The early part of the novel takes you from Boston on St Patrick’s Day, to a wealthy beach town in New Hampshire and a gang leader’s ranch in Mexico. However, when the threads of the story start to come together, it is the descriptions of Ireland that leave a lasting impression. As Rachel runs from one hide-out to another we are given descriptions of windswept holiday parks teetering on the edge of Europe with the sound of the Atlantic roaring in the background.
The pace of the story comes and goes which I thought was a clever way of presenting what could be just a straightforward thriller. Markov is clearly the villain of the story although the damage caused by his participation in the Chechen conflict is also made clear. The scenes where he and Killian battle it out provide plenty of tension although Killian seems forever out of his depth. In the final part of the book, leading up to the denouement, the pace slows right down and we are given an insight into the Pavee culture that is Killian’s background. This interesting section highlights the history of the Irish travelling community and its identity distinct from the Romany culture.
My only regret is that I would have preferred to read this first. Audio books will never replace the written word for me, but listening to the novel has made me want to read more of the McKinty’s earlier books featuring Michael Forstythe who plays a minor but memorable role here.
I bought my copy of the audio book. Other reviews (of the print version) can be found at Eurocrime and Review from the Blue House. The author’s website is here.