Thursday, May 18, 2006

THE DEAD YARD, by Adrian McKinty

Serpent's Tail, June 2006, ISBN: 1852429127

Michael Forsythe is on holiday in Spain; his first for five years since entering the Witness Protection Program. But caught up in football riots between Paddies and Brits, the Irishman finds himself in jail and subject to tough new EU laws on hooliganism. But there is a way out. He's offered the chance to escape a ten year jail term by infiltrating an IRA cell in New England. With his unique background, he's well placed to such a task but even if he thinks he's ready, nothing can prepare for the malestrom of violence and betrayal that will soon follow...

Adrian McKinty's sequel to his debut novel, Dead I May Well Be, is a compelling piece of writing that works on several levels. As a thriller, it is tense and exciting, with beautifully choreographed action sequences and a terrific sense of horror at some of the more excruciating violence. Fosythe himself is a character steeped in violence and yet there is a more tender side to him which creates a complexity that draws the reader to him. He is capable of some shocking acts and yet these are borne out of a neccesity which his ensure his actions, while brutal, are rarely ill-considered.

This complexity of character and contradiction extends to the IRA cell which Forsythe is assigned to infiltrate. As terrorists, we can see them instantly as bad guys and yet McKinty grants them a sense of love and family which means that, along with Forsythe, we begin to like some of these people and perhaps even understand them. This sympathy serves to make their crimes worse and their odd views even less sympathetic to us. There is an air of tragedy about the daughter, Kit, whose trusting innocence and loyalty to her father lead her to an inevitable and difficult moral decision made even more complex by her involvement with and attraction to Forsythe.

Like his earlier novel, Hidden River, McKinty marries the tough guy first person protagonist with moments of clear, poetic prose which read in some ways similar like James Lee Burke but more direct and with the moments of contemplation and description compressed so that they don't overshadow action or character. McKinty is a tight storyteller with a keen eye and a subtle psychology that marries well with the bloody and brutal action that rumbles towards an inevitable and gripping climax.

From its wonderful opening to its bloody and tense ending, The Dead Yard is an excellent and literate thriller from a dark, noir writer who has a great deal to say about not simply terrorism but also family, love and redemption. This is what we love at the Crime Scene: dark, tough and intelligent thrillers which engage and fascinate the reader. The Dead Yard is precisely that and as such is highly reccomended.

Russel McLean for Crime Scene Scotland, 18/05/06