Book Reviews: Anthony J Quinn thriller inspired by Fr Denis Faul
BOOK OF THE WEEK
Silence by Anthony J Quinn, published by Head of Zeus
IN NORTHERN Ireland, the past isn't another country, it inhabits the same tortured terrain as the present. This idea provides Anthony J Quinn with an atmospheric opening to the latest Inspector Celsius Daly thriller, Silence.
As our detective roams border country investigating the death of a priest, a web of murderous intrigue emerges dating back to 1979 and the start of the Troubles – and, in a nice sleight of authorial hand, extends to Daly's own loss of his mother Angela.
The horrors – and there are one or two good killings – are well done but there's a beautiful prose problem in the novel. Quinn likes the pathetic fallacy a bit too much, producing many paragraphs about the wet, wooded landscape. This could clog the action expected in this genre, except that the plot surprises keep coming.
In the end, the explanation of the Armagh "murder triangle" is not about the collusion between the Government and criminal factions in the RUC, but simply what late Fr Walsh called "mean little jealousies".
Silence is dedicated to the late Fr Denis Faul, Quinn's former teacher and headmaster, "whose dogged search for the truth inspired the book", according to the Co Tyrone author.
If you want the philosophy of the Troubles, and some of the reality, you'll get it here.
Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz, published in hardback by HarperCollins
AT THE age of 22, university drop-out turned author Bibi Blair is admitted to hospital. At first, doctors think she's had a stroke, but it turns out to be a rare brain cancer, and she's given just months to live.
Overnight, however, after a visit from a golden retriever, she is cured. When she returns home, her parents send her to meet a masseuse-cum-psychic, who, through the medium of Scrabble, divines that Bibi has been spared in order to save the life of someone called Ashley Bell.
Bibi has no idea who or where Ashley is, but sets off to find her, despite receiving a call from a neo-Nazi psychopath who has raped his own mother, and who intends to kill her and Ashley.
Dean Koontz has legions of loyal fans, but even they will struggle with this bizarre, rambling, chaotic story, and he's unlikely to win any new ones.
Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce, published in hardback by Corsair
CAN you wholeheartedly enjoy something, but find it deeply uncomfortable at the same time? This debut novel by Texas-born Merritt Tierce is proof that, yes, you can.
Barely out of childhood, Marie is already divorced and mum to a little girl she only gets to see on alternate weekends, working – a little too hard – as a waitress to earn a living. But away from the polished silverware and impeccable service, life is a mess of booze, drugs, self-harm and sex.
It's a reckless yet purposeful pattern driven largely by guilt and pain, which Marie manages to hide behind her professionalism at work and 'up for it' reputation socially. As she crashes through life, Tierce's pacey prose pulls you right along with her.
There's no pausing for apologies, or sentimental explanations, and no hero to make everything better. It's an odd contradiction, as a reader, to wish a story was different – for Marie's life to be different – while at the same time lapping up its brilliance.
SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach To Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver And More Resilient by Jane McGonigal, published by HarperCollins
WE ALL understand the concept of a game – there is a challenge to overcome and you set out to win. Simply put, this is the basis of New York Times bestselling author/researcher Jane McGonigal's book SuperBetter, an innovative guide to achieving life goals in a "gameful" way.
The idea formed after McGonigal suffered a severe concussion and spent long months recovering. Her subsequent research into playing games and how we react to life's stressful situations, such as illness or grief, triggered a fascinating discovery – we can gain mental, emotional, physical, and social resilience by tapping into the same psychological characteristics we display when in game mode.
As McGonigal states in the book, these include self-efficacy, work ethic and determination. The result is a revolutionary concept, explained simply and enthusiastically in SuperBetter, which is well grounded in meticulous research.
Practical and skilfully written, SuperBetter is a compelling read that maps the links between psychology and gameplay, and offers the ideal game plan to help you score.
Mary Ann Pickford