WE WERE KINGS by Thomas O'Malley

WE WERE KINGS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Tough guys in a tough town as the Irish Republican Army wages war in 1950s Boston.

O’Malley and Purdy’s sequel to Serpents in the Cold (2015) picks up several years after Cal O’Brien lost his wife in a firebombing, and his mental scars are still deep and raw. He's a former cop, now a private investigator, and recruits his piano-playing, reformed junky pal, Dante Cooper, to help the police in Irish Boston. Owen Mackey, Cal’s cousin and a police detective, senses that his case is not just a bizarre murder and asks for their eyes and ears in the Irish neighborhoods of the city. Boston suffers in a heat wave and bodies start showing up. One, tarred and feathered, sends a signal that this is bigger than local gangs at play. In Galway, Sean “the General” Mullen is managing a gun and ammunition trade from Boston to the homeland for the IRA and sends his soldiers to fix the problem of a stalled shipment. The war of Republicans and Royalists is imported to Boston Harbor. It's hard not to compare this novel with its predecessor, especially with an overabundance of references to the back story. But this one drags. Although O’Malley and Purdy do violence extremely well, the suspense in this story is anemic—an endless watch of sitting in cars and drinking, sitting in bars and drinking, Cal and Dante each wallowing in flashbacks to life before trauma. The story starts well as the mystery builds on the body count, but once the reader knows who's on the killing end and who's trying to take control of the missing boatload of guns, it becomes predictable. One good outnumbered shootout to close the loop and the novel ends with a fizzle. This book feels like a place holder for the next.

The authors deliver noir done well in dark-city descriptions and a cast of damaged characters but fall short on delivering a thrill.

Pub Date: June 21st, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-316-32353-6
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2016




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