BLACK IRISH by Stephan Talty


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Talty harnesses his nonfiction skills to craft a novel that’s centered on a feisty female cop in a history-rich Irish enclave in upstate New York.

Absalom Kearney, adopted daughter of legendary Buffalo police detective John Kearney, has returned home to care for her rapidly declining father. Abbie, as she’s known, worked as a police officer in Miami. She’s been back for a year and has already established herself as the best homicide investigator in the BPD. When Abbie and her partner, “Z,” catch a missing persons’ case that turns out to be the tip of a serial killers’ iceberg, she gets a chance to prove how good she is. The victim, Jimmy Ryan, a perpetual nonachiever who was tortured and left dead in an abandoned church, was discovered with a toy plastic monkey near his body. When someone tries to enter the home Abbie shares with her dad and leaves a similar toy on the doorknob, the female cop realizes that she’s up against more than simply a clever killer. She tracks members of a secret Irish organization while chasing the murderer across her county and into neighboring Niagara Falls, all the time putting herself in harm’s way. Talty shows his chops when recounting the area’s Irish roots, but the first half of the story is sluggish. The relentless grimness of the setting, hopelessness of the local economy and general ineptness of other police officers combine to create a lackluster atmosphere populated by characters that lack both depth and vitality. That in itself could be forgiven if Talty’s plot revealed brilliant detective work, but it doesn’t. Instead, Abbie comes across as unreasonable, dismissive of her co-workers, and abusive to both other cops and suspects alike. Readers can be forgiven if they find Talty’s story stretches credulity a bit, especially in the bloody second half.

This Buffalo-based novel turns out to be more notable for its area history, moody setting and occasional smart turn of phrase than for the thuggish heroine.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-345-53806-2
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2013


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