Local crime writers killing the competition

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TYRONE crime fiction writer and journalist Anthony Quinn has selected his favourite Irish crime fiction books published recently, as well as what to look out for in 2014.

Irish crime fiction has risen to new heights this year with home-grown noir finally moving beyond cult status to a must-have in every discerning reader’s Christmas stocking. Blame the brooding landscape, the overhang of religious guilt or the legacy of the Troubles, the imaginations of this new generation of crime writers are proving potently fertile when it comes to fictionalising violence and evil.

Below are five books, selected in no particular order, that are a notch higher than the other crime novels published recently, as well as the top authors’ recommendations of what to look out for in 2014.

The publishing world follows the herd instinct so expect to hear a great deal more of Irish crime writers in the new year, kicking off with the publication of Adrian McKinty’s eagerly awaited In The Morning I’ll Be Gone in January, Eoin McNamee’s Blue is the Night, which is the third in his ‘Blue’ trilogy, and the latest Charlie Parker novel from John Connolly, The Wolf in Winter, as well as new work by Belfast’s own Gerard Brennan.

Ken Bruen: The White Trilogy

Since he was first published in 1993, Bruen has been at the vanguard of Irish crime writing. This year saw the reissue of The White Trilogy by Otto Penzler’s MysteriousPress.com, a new imprint dedicated to publishing classic crime fiction on both sides of the Atlantic.

The White Trilogy revolves around a group of London police officers, intent on repairing their tarnished reputations with a ‘white arrest’, an arrest so pure it wipes out all previous transgressions. The Galway-based writer has one of the most original voices in crime fiction, writing in fragmented sentences that are more like word collages. A several times Edgar award nominated author, Bruen merges poetry, philosophy, grisly jokes, drink-talk, dreams and cold reality to immerse the reader in an experience as dark and satisfying as a pint of Guinness. Next April sees the publication of Merrick, which is the basis of a twelve part TV series on Swedish TV.

Claire McGowan: The Lost

Every self-respecting noir circle needs its queen of crime, and Newry-born Claire McGowan is in the ascendant with the publication of The Lost. When two teenage girls go missing along the Irish border, forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has to return to the hometown she left years before. With an intriguing back-story and interesting digressions into the occupational tensions experienced by a professional woman, as well as her desires and occasional fantasies, The Lost has put McGowan to the top of the murder ladder.

The Dead Ground, the second in the Paula Maguire series, will be published in April 2014.

Stuart Neville: Ratlines

Neville proves the versatility of Irish crime writing, successfully blending the historical with the fictional in this stand-alone thriller. The title refers to the escape routes across Europe used by hundreds of Nazis after the war to evade justice, some of them setting up new lives in Ireland. The book opens in 1963, with the murder of a German in an Irish seaside guesthouse. Minister for Justice Charles Haughey is desperate to protect a shameful secret: the dead man was a former Nazi granted asylum by the Irish government. Next year, Neville returns to his Belfast series with The Final Silence.

Brian McGilloway: Hurt

Derry-born McGilloway specialises in old-fashioned police procedurals with a modern twist. His main protagonists are refreshingly clean-cut and capable of kindness as they bravely probe the darker corners of Irish society. Opening with the death of a sixteen-year old girl on a train line, and with a plot-line incorporating murder, revenge and sexual crime, Hurt is one of his most harrowing tales to date. Brian is working on his third Lucy Black novel which has a working title of Broken and will be released in the autumn of next year.

Declan Burke: Slaughter’s Hound

Serving up rampant corruption, scamming and relentlessly brutal action scenes, Burke proves that Irish crime writers can also kick ass in the blood and guts department. What sets the award-winning Sligo writer apart is his deadpan sardonic tone. If you enjoy your crime fiction hard-boiled, and haven’t read Burke, then you’re several tequila shots behind the party. Watch out for his next outing Crime Always Pays due to be published by Severn Press in the UK in March, and in the US in July.

Anthony Quinn is the critically acclaimed author of Disappeared, which was nominated for a Strand Literary Award by the book critics of the LA Times, Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other leading US newspapers. Border Angels is his latest detective thriller.