Tuesday, 16 September 2008

A Wee Review - Hidden River by Adrian McKinty


We just can’t get enough of this Adrian McKinty bugger here at CSNI. And Hidden River offers the same standard of hard-boiled, poetic prose that jumped off the pages of the Michael Forsythe trilogy. But Alex Lawson is a very different protagonist to Michael Forsythe, and to me, I found Hidden River all the more appealing because of it. An ex-RUC detective at the tender age of twenty-four with a heroin habit and some seriously hard men keeping a close eye on him, Alex is a superbly interesting individual. Where Forsythe deals in lead, Lawson is all about the leads. Hidden River’s body count is a fraction of what you’d encounter in any of the three Forsythe novels, but what it lacks in shootouts and explosions, Hidden River makes up for in plot twists and red herrings.

Carrickfergus man, Alex Lawson, jumps at the chance to take a trip to Denver Colorado when he learns of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Victoria Patawasti. Victoria’s father doesn’t think the Denver police have arrested the right man, and he knows that before his mysterious resignation, Alex was a high-flying detective in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Who better to go learn the truth? And of course, Alex really needs to get out of Northern Ireland.

Writing from experience, McKinty shows us Denver Colorado through the eyes of a Northern Irish man. Like most cities, there’s smooth and rough, and we see both here, though mostly the rough. Alex and his friend John find a nice place to stay on Colfax Avenue, where a good hooker or drug dealer is only a stone’s throw away. As the boys find their way around, they help the reader establish a very definite sense of place. Nothing takes place in the white void. Well, except for the odd scene that sees Alex on a heroin nod. One can’t help but wonder, whose experience are these powerful scenes written from?

I’ve said it once, and no doubt will say it again, McKinty’s novels ooze elegant prose and poetic internal dialogue.

As has always been my experience when reading McKinty’s work, I blazed through this novel like nobody’s business. It’s not that the books are short. He just seems to have a knack for planting a lovely cliff-hanger at the end of most chapters. And he does the odd wee bit of foretelling, which is used to very good effect. At one point in Hidden River, he gives up the jig and lets the reader know that one of the characters is doomed. Rather than spoil the impact of the player’s final moment, the tension is heightened at every point of danger. You know that panicky, hitching feeling you get in your chest seconds after you almost crash your car or that adrenaline-spiked moment before a bar brawl kicks off? Well, McKinty’s suspenseful writing can recreate that lovely feeling for you. Incidentally, so can three cans of Red Bull.

The final chapters are a great lesson in how to mess with the reader. When it seems that it will take the “road less travelled”, a final twist/turn/revelation throws out something all the more satisfying. There’s little more I can say here without skirting spoiler territory. Just know that the fecker keeps you guessing right up to the final page.

So, Hidden River is a standalone in every respect. Written between Forsythe novels, there’s a different feel to the characters and the situation here, but everything about it is further proof of the quality of Adrian McKinty’s work. From start to finish, the writing draws the reader in and holds him in a white-knuckled grip until the final revelation. It’s so good I’ll end on a cliché. Hidden River is a must read!

9 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

the postal order is on its way as per usual

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Good thing too. This credit crunch is killing me.

gb

Disclaimer: Athough I'd be willing to accept bribes (in fact, would love to), Hidden River deserves the review CSNI has given it.

ryan said...

good audiobook

Gerard Brennan said...

I must get my hands on these audiobooks. So many fans rave about them.

gb

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

You can get them all for free as download bit torrents. (the bastards)

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Scumbags! I'll have no part in it.

Well, maybe... NO! I'll be strong.

Here, they have an anti-piracy shame-campaign going on over here where they sing a wee song about a guy called Knock-Off Norman on the telly. I can't get on youtube from work, but I'm sure the vid is there. It's actually quite funny.

gb

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

I beg you to watch Weird Al's Dont Download This Song. F**king hilarious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kP531bnC1k

A...

Gerard Brennan said...

"Even Lars Ulrich knows it's wrong..."

Bloody marvellous. Cheers for the chuckles, Adrian.

gb

Gilli said...

Just started reading Hidden River, my 6th of Adrian's books. Love love love Sean Duffy and got a couple more Michael books to go. Enjoying Hidden River so far. Bring on more Sean though please