Award-winning Irish playwright, and the co-founder of Dublin's Rough Magic Theatre Company Declan Hughes' The Wrong Kind of Blood was, without a doubt, one hell of a debut, the first book in a proposed trilogy, and it heralded the arrival of what now looks like a major new voice in P.I. fiction.
No, really. It's got its flaws, but this sucker has a real kick to it. There are echoes of everyone from Ross Macdonald to Ken Bruen in this sad but moving tale of EDWARD LOY, a once-successful Los Angeles private investigator who returns to his native Dublin for his mother's funeral, and gets dragged into looking for an old friend's missing husband. But the deeper he gets into the case, the more it seems to point to his past, and the disappearance of his own father years ago.
Coyly subtitled "An Irish Novel of Betrayal" (downgraded to "An Irish novel of suspense" for the paperback reprint) the book has an emotional drive to it that tears into the guts of all the carefully constructed lies we tell ourselves about the past so we can go on living and suggests that no matter what you tell yourself, ultimately you can't go home again.
Or maybe that you can't NOT go home again. Or at least not easily.
And blood always tells.
If that first Loy outing was a warning shot fired across the bows of a genre that too often settles for a sort of anemic predictability, its sequel, The Color of Blood is no tentative warning -- it's a direct hit, an audacious, full-blooded scream in the night, a bruising, ferocious assault on the evil that families do. It starts as a seemingly simple wandering-daughter job but turns very bad very quickly, culminating in a particularly brutal conclusion -- a prolonged pummeling as each piece of the Byzantine plot snaps firmly into place, every new revelation another blow to the reader.
Imagine Macdonald with blood on his hands. Not for the faint of heart, but highly recommended.
In fact, it was hard to see where Declan would go after Color -- and indeed, 2008's The Price of Blood suffered from following too closely the pattern of its predecessors. Not that's its weak, or poorly written -- I doubt Hughes has a bad book in him at this point, but it does suffer a little from familiarity; as though he's rewriting the same book again and again. But -- Macdonald fan that he is, he should appreciate this thought -- it's one hell of a book.
But in a move right out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, that acclaimed trilogy has become a series, followed by All the Dead Voices (2009) and City of Lost Girls (2010).
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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