A character-driven police procedural with an Irish twist.
Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2005, before Kerrigan’s American novelistic debut (The Midnight Choir, 2007), this work by the Dublin-based journalist shows his keen insight into the myriad varieties of human nature. Frankie Crowe is a career criminal who knows that it’s just a matter of time until he’s caught (he has been, he has served time and he’s prepared to do it again), but he can’t stop scheming to plot the big score that will have him “playing in a different league.” To do so, he must try to enlist at least lip-service support from Dublin crime boss Jo-Jo Mackendrick, who has been Frankie’s benefactor and whose life is the sort that Frankie envies. After a tip inspires a pub robbery that goes laughably awry, showing that the hotheaded Frankie lacks the cold calculation of a master criminal, he decides that a kidnapping will more than compensate for the pot of gold the pub failed to deliver. He recruits a band of accomplices who have previously dabbled with him in petty crime, some of whom have since gone straight and have various degrees of enthusiasm for the scheme and confidence in Frankie. The target: a well-to-do family who aren’t what Frankie thinks they are, and who keep secrets from each other. The question then becomes how much Frankie can extort from Justin Kennedy, whose home the kidnappers invade, for the release of his wife, Angela. There are some provocative parallels between the work Justin does and Frankie’s life of crime, and the novel reveals a particular empathy for Angela, who tries to trust at least one of her kidnappers and is never quite sure that she can trust her husband. The novel also spends plenty of time inside the mind of Inspector John Grace, whose previous familiarity with Frankie might help jump-start a stalled career.
The cops are no more pure than the criminals are purely corrupt, in a novel awash with moral ambiguity.