Monday, December 05, 2011
Different kind of crime novel from Ireland
An Irish Solution, a crime novel by Cormac Millar (pseudonym of Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin, a translator and a professor at Trinity College Dublin) was published by Penguin in 2005, and is little acknowledged among the current generation of Irish crime novels and novelists. Millar, who is the son of the late Irish author Eilís Dillon, frustrates all expectations with An Irish Solution: it's impossible to talk about the book without giving something away. Even the pitch made by the publisher, that it's about Seamus Joyce, newly appointed head of a new Irish Drug Enforcement Agency (iDEA) is misleading. And it seems to be the beginning of a crime fiction series, but that isn't quite true either.
Millar manages to constantly twist the plot away from cliche and into surprise, right up to the ending. At the beginning, a reader may think he/she is reading one sort of book, only to discover after a few chapters that it's really another sort of book, centered upon different characters than at first seemed central to the story. I kept trying to find comparisons with other recent Irish crime writing, but the closest I could come would be a mash-up of Alan Glynn's Winterland and M.S. Power's Children of the North trilogy (though Millar's book is more complicated and more cynical than the former and less mystical than the latter, and also without the latter's focus on Ulster and the Troubles).
Seamus Joyce is indeed newly appointed as head of the iDEA, but he's a bureaucrat, not a policeman. The police under his nominal command are into a great many things that he doesn't know about. Also featured are a pair of schoolgirls moonlighting in a pub, a hapless former schoolteacher, a few drug dealers, a senior nun, an international Institute of vague principles, and Seamus's hospitalized wife (and we can't be confident even in the stability of this last-mentioned character with relation to Seamus and others).
The book is often quite funny, in both turns of phrase and twists of plot. It's also quite enjoyable, once you leave your expectations at the door. Allow yourself some time to get into the book and you'll see whatI mean. There's a sort of sequel that I'm trying to get hold of now, and if it's half as good it will be well worth the trouble