Arts

Crime writer looks ahead to Northern noir in 2016

Northern Ireland crime writing is a place "where the past bulges with dark secrets and flawed detectives shine their torchlight over a society in transition from its violent past", according to Anthony J Quinn. The Co Tyrone author turns his beady eye to what fans of the genre can expect in the coming year

Carrickfergus native Adrian Kinty – particularly in Australia, where he now resides
Anthony J Quinn

IT MIGHT be presumptuous to suggest that in 2016 Ireland will match Scandinavia in the popularity and appeal of its detective fiction.

However, those with a criminal curiosity for provocative dramas involving troubled but engaging heroines, potent and vivid portraits of Belfast in the 1980s, killer cliffhangers, razor-sharp dialogue and dazzling writing should look no further than the north's shining lights of the genre, many of whom are due to release new books next year.

Adrian McKinty has garnered a reputation in Australia, where he now resides, for his award-winning Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy series, but exile from his native Carrickfergus has not dampened the heat and immediacy of his tales which are set in the sectarian-ridden Northern Ireland of the 1980s.

Rain Dogs, the fifth in the series out in January, looks set to be further proof that time and geographical distance are valuable aids for an author excavating the dark matter of the Troubles.

McKinty shows with style that an author's true homeland is the language in which he writes and his lovingly created scenes of Belfast are resplendent in all their unique beauty and nastiness.

Duffy's latest adventure sees him investigating the apparent suicide of a journalist found dead at Carrickfergus castle, and he soon finds himself immersed in an investigation of corruption and abuse at the highest levels of power in the UK.

Leading the way in creating intelligent entertainment out of the baggage of the Troubles, Stuart Neville specialises in spine-chilling plots that take the reader on a psychological dive into the criminal mind.

With his new Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan series, Stuart has created an emotionally complex protagonist capable of guiding readers through the most dreadfully intimate depictions of brutality and evil.

Due for publication in August, So Say The Fallen has Flanagan investigating the scene of a sudden death, a man left horrifically maimed by a car accident who appears to have taken his own life, making a wealthy widow of Rowena Garrick.

A simple case, it should be wrapped up in a few days, but something doesn’t feel right to Flanagan.

Cue a downward spiral of lust and guilt from a true master of noir.

Fans of legal thrillers packed with tension and gung-ho action should check out Steve Cavanagh's The Plea, due out on St Patrick's Day.

The Belfast lawyer's début The Defence, launched last year, proved such a hit that it was rushed into translation across Europe.

Both novels feature the exploits of former hotshot conman-turned trial lawyer Eddie Flynn, and specialise in exploring the similarities between con artistry and the legal profession.

Bucking the trend among his writing peers, Cavanagh has swapped home-grown noir for that of New York with its single attorney legal system and corruption-mired backdrop of Mafia gangs.

Praised as Ireland's answer to Ruth Rendell, Newry-born Claire McGowan's flawed but sympathetic heroine DI Paula Maguire brings an emotional core to her gritty police procedural dramas with her humour, honesty and quirky moral compass.

Sympathy for her chief protagonists adds to the page-turning impetus of her novels, which have the added benefit of providing her readers with a perceptive examination of Northern Ireland's post Troubles landscape.

A Savage Hunger, released in March, has the forensic psychologist pursuing the daughter of a life peer in the Home Office, who vanishes along with a holy relic – the bones of a saint – and the only trace is the bloodstains on the altar.

Finally, Irish crime fiction fans will be following the interesting twists and turns of Colin Bateman's writing career.

Regarded as the dean of Northern Irish crime writing, and credited as the galvanising factor behind the new vanguard of novelists, his Dan Starkey series helped kick away the inhibitions preventing local writers from following that old creative-writing adage – write about what you know.

Taking a break from film script writing and with a new publisher behind him, the impressively inventive Bateman releases Papercuts in February. It's a newspaper drama set in his home town of Bangor, and will also be published as eight separate e-books – each one a stand-alone story.

:: Anthony J Quinn's latest novel Silence has been praised by The Sunday Times as "a magnificent meditation on the corrosive legacy of the Troubles" and selected by the Sunday Express as one of the best crime novels of the season.

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