A breakout second novel (after Orange Rhymes with Everything, 1997) careens boisterously from Belfast to the Bronx, and ’tis naught but Troubles all the way.
Michael Forsythe’s on the run, everlastingly it seems. He’s 19, psyche-scarred, battle-scarred, Belfast-scarred, so that violence has become “his only form of meaningful expression.” To avoid jail, he slips out of the O.C. (Old Country) and into the States, illegally, and almost at once finds his talents in demand: he’s good with his fists, his guns, icy in a tight spot, and noticeably cleverer than most. It’s 1992, crack is king, and an ambitious Irish gangster named Darkey White wants his turf free of the Dominican influence. Michael’s made to order for him—until, that is, the advent of Bridget. Bridget is beautiful, reckless, and, to Michael, fatefully irresistible: “Aye, you can imagine her . . . summoning you to a barrow in the earth. You would know all this and still you would bloody follow her.” And Michael does—to his cost, because she belongs to Darkey, who, while unreservedly pleased at Michael’s performance on his behalf, has zero tolerance for hanky-panky. Michael and three young colleagues are dispatched to Mexico, on a routine drug deal to be followed by some well-earned downtime, they’re told. But it’s a betrayal. Instead, they’re peached on to the Mexican police and, as a result, imprisoned—in a very bad prison, chillingly evoked, bad enough so that only Michael survives. Eventually, he escapes, taking with him the heaviness of a promise made to a friend: an eye for an eye, invoked on a dying breath. How Michael goes about the business of revenge, and how it reshapes him, is the burden of the rest of the tale.
McKinty, born in Northern Ireland and now Colorado-based, is a storyteller with the kind of style and panache that blur the line between genre and mainstream. Top-drawer.