Quinn, Anthony - 'Disappeared'
The flow of thorns intensified, scratching the air like the noise of a scythe being sharpened. The stranger's face seemed to wilt under the deluge. He fell back and his body was suddenly swept away like a black blanket into the howling air.
January, Washing Bay, Lough Neagh, N. Ireland.
February, Coney Island, Lough Neagh.
The home of Celcius Daly's father, Lough Neagh, 3 am.
Meanwhile a parish priest receives the phone call that there is a body for him, in a tree on Coney Island. Wearily he collects his oils and prayer book and steps out into the early morning...
DISAPPEARED is Irish author and journalist Anthony Quinn's first novel. Published in the US in 2011, 2013 sees its publication in the UK. Quinn, born in Northern Ireland's County Tyrone, says that it was his own family's experience during the Troubles - the feeling of "walking a tightrope with the IRA at one end and the British Army and Protestant paramilitaries on the other" - alongside interviews with the families of Ireland's "Disappeared" (those murdered by paramilitaries and whose bodies have never been found) that inspired him to write this book.
In DISAPPEARED, Police Inspector Celcius Daly is back in Northern Ireland after some years in Glasgow. Trailing a broken marriage, he is staying in his dead father's cottage near Lough Neagh when he is handed two investigations: the disappearance of David Hughes, a retired Special Branch officer suffering from Alzheimer's, and the brutal death of Joseph Devine, a one-time spy for the British. Celcius is also drawn into the mystery of another man's disappearance some twenty years before. Supposedly killed by the IRA, this man's body was never found. He had become one of Ireland's "Disappeared" with that stigma and unresolved grief still marking his family.
Drenched in wind, rain and darkness, this book has the terrific atmosphere of a Gothic horror story (which perhaps it is). It is set in a rural landscape of wintry thorn hedges, fields and crumbling cottages - a rural landscape now inhabited by the elderly and their secrets. The disappeared of the present mingle with the disappeared of the past in a story of informers, handlers, executioners and extortionists. As with many other crime writers, Quinn implies a manipulative secret police service which, alongside corruption in contemporary politics, also takes a hand in the proceedings. The book's distinguishing strength is its mysterious darkness bordering on the supernatural shot through with an ingenious blend of dementia and deception. Other Irish writers blend the supernatural with modern crime - think the earlier novels in Stuart Neville's "Jack Lennon" series through to the full-on horror of John Connolly's "Charlie Parker" books. With Anthony Quinn having already written a second Celcius Daly novel I hope we will be able to watch for a distinctive new voice emerging in contemporary Northern Irish crime fiction.
Read another review of DISAPPEARED.
Lynn Harvey, England
last updated 25/04/2015 16:57