Adrian McKinty lives up to his reputation as 'the toughest, the best' Northern Irish crime writer
Frank McCourt described Adrian McKinty as 'a cross between Mickey Spillane and Damon Runyon', then upped the ante with 'the toughest, the best'.
Great qualities to attribute to any crime fiction writer. But even this killer quote from the late, great McCourt only scratches McKinty's surface. He is often included in the newest wave of Northern Irish crime fiction, along with the likes of Stuart Neville and Brian McGilloway, and he more than deserves this place.
But what is McKinty’s USP? Well, contrary to his reputation, it could be argued that McKinty has a soft and squishy centre. His writing is hardnosed, but the core of his work is always responsible and sensitive.
Falling Glass is the story of Killian, a Pavee Traveller of Irish descent (often referred to as a tinker and/or gypsy in the book) who is pulled out of retirement from ‘the game’ to do one last job. And, to give it a Chandler- and Coen Brothers-esque hat tip, it's a wandering daughter job.
Richard Coulter – the fictional, Northern Irish answer to Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary – has managed to lose track of his ex wife and two children. He’s wary of press involvement – particularly how it might affect the bottom line – so he’s gone down less than traditional routes to locate his family.
When he fails, Coulter reaches out to Michael Forsythe. Fans of McKinty’s Dead Trilogy will recognise the name as that of an assassin, but never fear. Forsythe has a soft and squishy centre too, sometimes, and he puts Coulter in touch with a man who can get the job done without spilling a drop of blood. The aforementioned Killian.
Unfortunately, it wouldn't be much of a thriller if things ran too smoothly. A second man is drafted in, after complications, who is more than
happy to shoot, stab and strangle his way to the prize.
This is McKinty’s fifth crime novel (he also writes a series of books aimed at the YA market) and he still delivers the goods with a pacy, action-driven, plot-heavy book.
McKinty also takes advantage of this being the most contemporary setting of his canon to dabble in social commentary; in particular the global economic recession, how it affected Northern Ireland’s property crash, and the place of Irish Travellers in contemporary Irish society.
He provides a measured and intelligent account of Irish Traveller life, which might go some way to debunking the lazy, sensationalist drivel churned out by that awful reality TV show that shall not be named.
This is the first time McKinty has switched to a third person narrative. The change in approach brings with it the experiences of a larger cast of characters. On the downside, however, the head-hopping isn’t always telegraphed as well as it could be, which can pull some readers out of a story.
One tiny foible can be allowed, though, in a tale as gripping and entertaining as this. Especially since McKinty is of the school of crime fiction that believes excellent writing is not secondary to a thriller but is, in fact, compulsory. And the epilogue… to say too much would be a horrible spoiler, but that alone is worth the price of a trade paperback.
Falling Glass cuts deep and leaves its mark. If you haven’t discovered McKinty yet, brace yourself and pick this one up.