Magazine article The Spectator

A Choice of Crime Novels

Magazine article The Spectator

A Choice of Crime Novels

Article excerpt

Dublin has a special relationship with fiction, which in recent years has inspired some excellent crime novels. Among them is Declan Hughes's Ed Loy series, which gives a distinctively Irish twist to the flawed private investigator of American pulp fiction. Loy has many of the classic characteristics of the breed, including the tastes for hard liquor, lovely women and lost causes. But Hughes places his protagonist in a sharply observed contemporary Dublin; and his plots erupt from the city's faultlines.

In All The Dead Voices (John Murray, £16.99), the fourth novel in the series, a woman hires Loy to investigate a cold case - the murder of her father, a tax inspector with a dangerous habit of asking questions about the ill-gotten gains of powerful and superficially respectable people. Organised crime and dissident Republicanism inhabit a shady underworld of drugs, clubs and guns. This is a novel about how the present struggles to come to terms with the past: 'There's a reckoning you can make with history, a reasonable settlement, ' Loy believes. 'And then there's a kind of morbid fascination that borders on obsession . . . .' On one level this is Dublin Noir at its best. On a deeper level, the real subject of Ed Loy's investigation is modern Ireland itself.

Midnight Fugue (Harper Collins, £17.99), the latest instalment of Reginald Hill's admirable Dalziel-and-Pascoe series, unfolds over 24 tightly-orchestrated hours.

Superintendent Dalziel, still groggy from an encounter with Semtex at the end of his previous case, is keen to prove he's back on form. As a private favour to a colleague, he blunders into the search for a police officer who went missing seven years earlier. He is unaware that a financier with a hidden past as a particularly predatory loan shark has sent a miniature hit squad on the same mission. The financier's son, a rising star among Cameron's Conservative MPs, has a PA with an agenda of her own. A tabloid journalist with a grudge spots an opportunity to nail both father and son. The competing strands of the narrative collide at Sunday lunch in a posh hotel, and soon someone has his face blown off with a shotgun blast. It's business as usual in Mid-Yorkshire. Hill's plot is elegantly constructed, and his prose is delectable; both have echoes of Wodehouse.

Witty, slightly surreal and fundamentally humane, the novel is a welcome addition to one of the best crime series around.

Nicci French's What To Do When Someone Dies (Michael Joseph, £12. …

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