Will you think less of me if I tell you I skipped part of the middle section and went straight to the last fifty pages to see how the book was resolved? I do that sometimes if I can’t figure out if I want to finish a book or not. If the ending salvages a rocky start, I’ll continue reading. If not, hasta la vista, baby.
In my defense – if I need one – I did read all the way to page 126 before my attention flagged. And it wasn’t for the author’s want of trying. There were dead bodies, dysfunctional characters galore, sex, and the glorious underbelly of Dublin on display, but somehow it just wasn’t enough.
The Chicago Tribune called it “Irish noir” -- I’m trying to think of something clever to say about the “Black Irish” and “Irish noir,” but it’s not coming to me, especially since red hair is a notable attribute of some of the characters – and the book certainly is dark and headed, the reader feels early on, for a whiz-bang of an ending in which no one gets his or her heart’s deepest desire, unless the desire is death.
For the last hundred or so pages of what I read before I cried “uncle,” I also cried, “Why would Ed take these stupid, stupid people as clients?” Ed is Ed Loy, the private investigator who initially just has to find the missing daughter of a wealthy and well-known dentist. Having successfully completed his mission, Ed is further hired to save the girl’s extended family from itself. That might take a little longer. Before Ed saves them, or not, I lost interest. There was no one I wanted to cheer on to the finish line of redemption.
Redemption to me is a crucial component in the best of the contemporary noir books I’ve read lately. It gives heart to a novel, whether the protagonist succeeds in redeeming himself or not. As I read the last fifty pages for the resolution, I was reminded of one of my favorite movies that dealt with a similar subject and how that movie treated it with much more poignancy and strength. I think Hughes has the capacity to do something similar because he is a capable writer, just one whose present novel hasn’t the heart to touch us.