Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Sydney Morning Herald Reviews Duffy #3

at least the French love me
I was thinking today how strange it is that my books seem to get reviewed in every country in the world except America. Apart from the review from the great Daneet Steffens in The Boston Globe it doesn't look like I'll get any other US papers to review my new Sean Duffy novel. I wonder why that is. The Sean Duffy books have been reviewed in all the major (and minor) British, Irish, French, German, Spanish and Australian newspapers out there but from the entire series in only 2 American ones: Duffy #1 was reviewed in the Arizona Republic and Duffy #3 was reviewed in the Globe. It's a little odd, no? I have several working hypotheses as to why this is: 

1. Blame the publisher. While its true that my small independent American publisher (7th Street Books) doesn't have much money for PR purposes they have done their job well. They've sent out review copies to all the appropriate media and as far as I can see it's not their fault that no one has bitten the hook. 
2. Blame me. I'm not young or hip and I don't live in Brooklyn which is what you have to be to get editors excited these days. However I do have a bloody interesting story to tell and no one who's ever interviewed me has complained that I was boring. Did you know that I got my face smashed open in a fight in school and had to get 17 stitches across my eye? Or that I got knocked down by an RUC Land Rover in a hit and run? Or that I used to get a lift to school every morning by an army major who had to check and see if there was a bomb under his car? Or that last January when I was visiting my mum I ran into a full blown riot down the road from her house? Yeah, well, there's plenty more where that came from...
3. Blame The New York Times. Despite starred reviews in the trades, stellar reviews in the British media, multiple award nominations and award wins my Duffy books have never been reviewed by Marilyn Stasio - the crime reviewer of the NYT. Why? You'll have to ask her that one. But the NYT is important because its a kind of gate keeper. Once the Times reviews you, other papers follow suit and if the Times never reviews you, you're more or less dead in the water. 
4. Blame Irish America. You buy too many dead Irish writers and not enough living Irish ones. Oh, and you also buy Benjamin Black....hmmmm. 
5. Blame Nordic Noir. Nordic Noir peaked three years ago. Its the dregs of the barrel now but many reviewers and readers aren't nimble enough to see that. And the avalanche of Nordic Noir sucks all the oxygen out of the room...
6. Blame nobody. The blame game is for whingers. It's just what it is, mate.  
...
and the Germans
Anyway not sure how I got sidetracked onto this...I got another great review for Sean Duffy #3 (I haven't had a bad one yet) in last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age, below:  

CRIME FICTION
Sue Turnbull

In the Morning I'll Be Gone
ADRIAN McKINTY

I love a good opening - one that establishes character, situation and style in a few swift moves. In the Morning I'll be Gone, Adrian McKinty's third police procedural to feature Detective Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, has these down pat. It's September 1983 and Duffy's insistent beeper is advising him of a Class I Emergency (previous incidents of similar magnitude include a Soviet invasion and an ''extra-terrestial trespass''). Duffy couldn't care less, given that it's his day off and he is way too busy on his Atari 5200 games console dealing with a Galaxian space invasion of his own. He's also as ''high as Skylab'' on some home-baked Turkish black cannabis resin. McKinty is good with the period details that permeate even his metaphors. Skylab, NASA's manned space station, was launched in 1973, eventually falling to Earth some six years later out west on the Nullarbor Plain. The Atari 5200 was released in 1982, and Galaxian, produced by the Japanese company Namco in 1979, apparently belongs to the ''golden age of arcade video games''.

Born in Belfast in 1968, McKinty would have been in his mid-teens at the moment of Galaxian supremacy and probably much happier defending Earth from alien invaders than living in Northern Ireland while The Troubles raged around him. We're still only on the second page when we learn that the current Class 1 incident involves a mass breakout of IRA prisoners from the Maze prison (previously known as Long Kesh), and that Duffy expects double time if required to report for duty, which he dutifully does. Duffy is a good detective, however reluctant he might appear. Things get personal when Duffy discovers that the criminal mastermind behind the breakout is his old school chum, Dermot McCann.

This is how a civil war works, Duffy wryly observes, senselessly dividing friends, families and communities while inadvertently slaughtering the innocent. In the village of Bellaughray, the absurd border dividing north and south runs down the middle of the main street. When the army opens up on the Maze escapees hiding in the reeds, they massacre only an exhausted flock of Greenland geese ''who had foolishly touched down on their journey to the south of France''. McKinty does funny and sad, often in the same sentence.

even the Spanish are on board, so what gives America?
Sidelined for a manufactured misdemeanour, Duffy is seconded to MI5 to track down his former school pal, McCann. Frustratingly, the one person who knows where to locate McCann will only divulge the intel if Duffy solves the enigma of her daughter's death. Four years earlier, Lizzie was found with a broken neck after ''apparently'' falling from the bar of the family pub after lock-up while trying to change a light bulb. Her mother does not believe it was an accident. Nor does the doctor who first examined the body.

Structurally, In the Morning I'll be Gone is gemlike, embedding a clever locked-room murder mystery within a terrorist thriller. The essence of the former, the affable but well-read Chief Inspector Beggs tells Duffy over a pint, ''is to assure the reader that the room is hermetically sealed when in fact there may be another way in''.

Edgar Allen Poe's archetypal story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, is invoked, although Beggs is of the opinion, based on his French mother-in-law's sleeping patterns, that the story hinges on an unlikely premise. So what about the body in the pub? Duffy must solve this puzzle before he can proceed to the more pressing problem, tracking down Dermot McCann and his next IRA target. Expect a big finish. McKinty does those with a flourish, too.
...
Other newspaper reviews of Sean Duffy #3, here.