Kerrigan, Gene - 'The Midnight Choir'
This is a wonderful book, superbly well written. The promise of Kerrigan's previous book, LITTLE CRIMINALS, is more than fulfilled in this elegiac novel of corruption in Ireland. The book begins by describing various apparently unconnected events; one in Galway, where Garda Joe Mills is called on to try to stop a desperate man jumping from a pub roof; and a couple of others in Dublin, where Detective Inspector Harry Synnott investigates a rape accusation made against the son of a rich local lawyer, where a desperate woman threatens to stab a tourist with a syringe full of blood for cash, and where businessman Joshua Boyce is planning a raid on a jeweller's shop.
As these stories play out, weaving in and out of each other, corruption small and large is all-pervasive. Whether trapped in poverty, addicted to drugs, desperate to keep a family together or wanting to preserve a pleasant lifestyle, everyone is on the take, selling each other out, hiding unsavoury truths or aiming to stay on top of the organised crime heap. Almost the only character with integrity is Harry, who has been moved from several police stations previously because he has blown the whistle on past cases of police "stitch-ups", much to the disgust of many of his erstwhile and present colleagues.
But is all what it seems? Is Harry really a hero, or is he part of the tapestry of deceit that threads through the narrative? The answers to these questions become clearer after he meets up with John Grace, a main character in Kerrigan's previous book, LITTLE CRIMINALS. Grace is taking early retirement and goes through his files of old cases with Harry. In this scene, we begin to get the true picture of Harry's moral perspective.
Remembering his old friend, a priest, one night, "Synnott listened to the city sounds, the chugging noise of traffic mixed in with occasional catcalls and burst of laughter. As he drifted towards sleep, individual voices, each with its own energy and purpose, blended into a muffled chorus, a refrain both solemn and threatening."
I loved everything about this book. THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR is truly bleak, at times violent and disturbing, but always brilliant. The way in which the plots overlap and sometimes merge in a horridly inevitable cause and effect is masterly. Although I applaud the lack of sentimentality, I was glad that the reader is left with a spark of optimism in the shape of at least two police officers who know how to do the right thing.
Maxine Clarke, England