Ballentine Books, $26.00, 320 pages, ISBN 978-0-345-53806-2
Are you familiar with the term “Black Irish?” It refers not to the color of one’s skin, but to the color of one’s hair. The black Irish are descendents of the survivors of King Phillip of Spain’s Spanish Armada, a fleet of warships sent in 1588 to invade England. The Armada was defeated by the British Navy, and the remainder was sunk by storms off of the HebridesIslands. The survivors made it to Ireland where they remained, settled and met those fair and red haired Irish lassies and, well . . . you know the rest of that story. The result is some Irish are black-haired and blue-eyed, and that is the subject of out MBR No. 106.
Black Irish is an edge of your seat psychological thriller about the hunt for a vicious serial killer in south Buffalo, New York. It’s an area known as “The County” and it’s home to large groups of Irish-Americans who cling to their clannish old country ways in a devastated city lacking in industry, jobs and hope. When a savage murder occurs in the basement of a closed and shuttered, locked Catholic church, Absalom, “Abbie” Kearney is assigned the case. She’s the recently returned adoptive daughter of legendary Buffalo P.D. detective Jack Kearney, who’s come home to confront her own troubled past and care for her father, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. Abbie is a raven-haired, blue-eyed beauty with experience in the Miami, Florida homicide division, a Harvard degree and the determination necessary to solve the most bizarre murders in recent memory. The first victim was found tortured to death in the church basement. The second was found in a public park . . . skinned alive. Both had as clues, plastic toys, left at the scene by the killer. As the killings continue Abbie knows that the answer to the crimes lies somewhere in her old neighborhood, The County. But she’ll have to break through the distrust, the clannishness and the code of silence and secrecy that includes the police department and even her own father to catch the murderer. Before she’s done, the case will take many strange twists and turns involving gangs, secret societies and human smuggling. The conclusion is stunning and will leave you thinking about this hard-to-stop-reading novel for a very long time. It’s impossible to forget and so chilling in its descriptive powers that you’ll be cool reading it on the hottest of hot summer days. Although Black Irish is Mr. Talty’s first fiction novel, he already has a New York Times non-fiction best seller to his credit. I think we’ll be seeing his name on the bestseller lists and a lot more. Oh yeah. He’s that good. This one should be nominated for an Edgar for Best First Novel in my opinion. It’s sooo damn good . . .