BLACK IRISH by Stephan Talty
Author: Stephan Talty
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars
Format: E-book, Print
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2/26/2013
Recommended Reading: AGE 17+
Contains NO spoilers
THE GIST: A deep and gritty look at the Irish American community in Buffalo New York, set around several gruesome serial killings that kept me up at night reading under the light of the moon. This page-turner had me white knuckling my Kindle during some of the most gruesome murder scenes I have read in a while. My stomach literally twisting in knots with the all the crafty plot twists. The female protagonist was not only über intelligent, but also incredibly strong and I enjoyed every moment spent canvasing her tight-knit community, searching for a brutal killer. If you are in the mood for a gripping, scary and smart thriller that throws an bare-knuckled punch that will leave you begging for a large shot of Jameson, Black Irish is a sure bet.
SYNOPSIS: In this explosive debut thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water, a brilliant homicide detective returns home, confronting a city’s dark demons and her own past while pursuing a serial killer on a vengeful rampage.
When Jimmy Ryan’s mangled corpse is found in a local church basement, the sadistic sacrilege sends a bone-deep chill through winter-whipped Buffalo. But police detective Absalom “Abbie” Kearney also fears the brutal crime is sending a message—one that only the fiercely secretive citizens of the Irish-American neighborhood known as “the County” understand, and one that seems especially tailored for Abbie’s ears. Searching for answers to explain the monstrous act mysteriously leads Abby to her own family’s past. At work, she finds herself stonewalled at every turn by an old-world code of silence and secrecy. And as the grisly murders continue, she must match wits with a maniacal killer bent on exposing the County’s hidden history . . . one bloody body at a time.
THE LOWDOWN: This book opens with a bang. Sucking you in like a twister, unrelenting and violent, leading into a story that took me to dark places interspersed with subtle rays of light. I became hooked immediately and although the pacing was not always as quick or as steady as I would have liked, the end far exceeded my expectations.
Who knew Irish American’s residing in Buffalo were so tight-knit. I always reserved that stereotype for Boston Southies, but apparently, the closed-minded and insular thinking of isolated immigrant communities reaches outside the territories famous for this type of stereotypical behavior. Black Irish takes you inside a community that wants justice, but doesn’t trust outsiders to bring it, even shutting Irish Americans out of the circle whose ancestry hails from politically unpopular regions of the “Old Country”. The author sheds light on this troublesome mindset by interweaving it seamlessly into the plot. Several times, I found myself stopping to inform my husband (Sean O’Connor) about how racist or close-minded his people were, then rushing back to the book in a panic to find out more. For those of you who will undoubtedly rush to tell me that I am overgeneralizing…don’t. It is mere fodder. I watched enough Jersey Shore to know a countries American counterparts are not representative of an entire culture.
Although great, the best parts are not the historical elements, or the blood that drips from the pages after a new killing is revealed; it’s the female lead Abbie. She is encompasses everything I want from a leading lady. She is a Harvard graduate, as tough as a pit-bull in a Chihuahua cage match, who never once relents to the chauvinistic men who constantly attempt to bully her into submission. She doesn’t break, budge or cry…she fights and it is extremely exhilarating, refreshing. Her voice never waivers – not once – and her relationship with the secondary characters are spot-on. You root for this one, partly because she overcomes tremendous adversity, but mostly because she is so much smarter than everyone else that she deserves to win.
If you have a weak constitution and don’t like books about serial killers or Irish people, I would steer clear of this one, because it is jam-packed with both. But if deep, smart and thrilling books where you actually learn something are your thing, Black Irish will no doubt have you double-checking your locks and reaching for a warm glass of Guinness.