Monday, 27 April 2009

A Wee Review - Fifty Grand by Adrian McKinty


(Originally posted in January 2009)

This is it, guys. A book that’s getting the type of hype I’m willing to swallow. Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays and Peter Rozovsky at Detectives Beyond Borders have each thrown in their two cents, and they’re united in their approval. Fifty Grand is due to be released by Henry Holt in May 2009, but I’m one of a handful of oh-so-lucky bedraggled blog-reviewers to have gotten my threadbare mittens on an advanced copy of this anticipated tome from Adrian McKinty. It’s no secret that I’ve been left breathless by the Michael Forsythe trilogy, and Hidden River is one of the best mysteries I’ve read this year. Is it fair that he can blow me away again? No, it’s not. His writing ability makes me want to cry my self-pitying soul to sleep. And I’ve lost more than a few hours reading, “Just one more chapter,” of his work. But unfair as it is that the fecker did it four times in a row, it’s happened again in this, his fifth crime fiction novel. We’ll get it out of the way right now. FIFTY GRAND IS THE BEST THING MCKINTY HAS WRITTEN TO DATE!*

Set in Cuba, Mexico and Colorado, Fifty Grand introduces us to Detective Mercado of the Cuban police force, the PNR. McKinty has once again dipped into his well-travelled past to bring the backdrops to life. And his time as an illegal immigrant in America has given some extra depth to Mercado’s experiences in this fish-out-of-water mystery. The plot is steeped in paranoia, intrigue and cloak-and-dagger tension as Mercado stumbles (with purpose) about Denver Colorado to solve a deeply personal case. Nobody escapes the understated, wry humour. Mother Cuba, American lifestyles, Scientology. I’ll not say McKinty has a pop at them all, because at the end of the day, Mercado is a fictional character, but some of the observations are pretty darn scathing.

With the release of the film Che, a book about modern Cuba is likely to garner quite a bit of interest. And that’s what this is. Even when posing (living and working) as an illegal Mexican immigrant in America, Mercado’s thoughts are never far from Havana. Time and again, America (as a country and concept) is compared to the Republic of Cuba, and in Mercado we find a reasonable judge. The reader might not agree with every conclusion presented, but each observation will leave you thinking. And that’s before you even consider the gripping mystery storyline (which I’m taking great pains not to spoil).

Spoilers or not, though, a mystery is not all you can expect from a McKinty book. Tight plot, exotic settings, taking the piss out of America. Any writer worth their salt can do this in their sleep. What most of them can’t do is write like McKinty. I’ll reread Fifty Grand, probably after I watch Che, and even though I know how it all pans out, I suspect the writing will hold my attention all over again.

Fifty Grand will suck you in with its Latin rhythm and leave you hankering for one more belt of rum. If I was a betting man and the credit crunch/recession would ever quit messing with my financial situation, I’d put a heap of money on Fifty Grand being the book that brings the type of attention to McKinty’s work that’s deserved. And giving his track record, when Serpent’s Tail re-re-release the Forsythe Trilogy, they’ll be laughing all the way to the bank. And fair play to them, says I. Fair play to them.

*A minor disclaimer – I haven’t read his YA books nor Orange Rhymes With Everything, and thank God for that. It’s bound to be at least a year before he releases another novel.

27 comments:

Michael Stone said...

I can't say anything I haven't said already -- I'm eager to read this book! As a matter of interest (bibliophile that I am), what editions are coming out? The Henry Holt hardcover a US release, isn't it? Will there be a 'proper' UK edition somewhere down the line?

Gerard Brennan said...

Mike - You should be eager. Now I'm repeating myself!

Yeah, there'll be a UK version of Fifty Grand by the ever-savvy Sepent's Tail. At the moment, I believe, it's scheduled for a summer release.

gb

Stuart Neville said...

Michael beat me to the question. I'm ashamed to say I've yet to read one of Adrian's books, but I've got The Dead Yard in my TBR pile, and it's edging ever nearer the top. I keep hearing such good buzz about Fifty Grand that I was wondering if I should order myself a copy from the US. Any date on the Serpent's Tail release?

marco said...

Another rave review.

Time and again America compared to Cuba? That's interesting.

John McFetridge said...

Great review. And congrats for the no spoilers - this is a very tough book to review without giving away some very important things that should only come from reading the book itself.

Here's hoping all reviewers are as good at it as you are.

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

Whooo,

Thanks man, I really appreciate it.

John

One big spoiler: the detective is really a ghost and only a little boy knows the truth.

adrian mckinty said...

oh another spoiler, that bit in the motel thats really him dressed up as his own mother!

seanag said...

Stuart, since you haven't started with Michael Forsythe yet, it's maybe best to go get a used copy of Dead I Well May Be online or somewhere and begin at the beginning.

krimileser said...

Exactly my advice, too: Begin at the beginning. It is rewarding.

Gerard Brennan said...

Stuart - I don't have a definite date, but Rebecca Gray, Adrian's PR rep at the house told me a while ago that it'd be a summer release. Maybe Adrian has a better idea? To be honest, I'm not sure what you should do. Maybe buy the Holt version for you and the Serpent's Tail copy for a friend?

Oh, and follow the advice from Seana and Bernd. Get a copy of Dead I Well May Be in the meantime.

Marco - Yes, the comparisons are interesting, but they're put across in a much more subtle way than I may have suggested, I think.

John - Cheers, sir. I hope so too. Been meaning to email you, actually. Will see if I can rattle it off before the boy awakens from his nap.

Adrian - Come on, man, you're killing me here. Just don't tell anybody what happens after Salma Hayek's table dance, okay?

Seana and Bernd - Thanks again for your contributions.

Cheers, all

gb

John McFetridge said...

Seanag, I agree Dead I Well May Be is a great place to start (but you can start with Fifty Grand, it delivers all on its own).

If you do want to pick a copy of an earlier book, though, you could be reading this version in five minutes:

http://www.ebooks.com/ebooks/book_display.asp?IID=161689

and Adrian might even get a nickel. (I know, I know, we all want to hold the 'real' book in our hands, but c'mon, ten bucks and you can have it right now!)

adrian mckinty said...

John

Yes good point. The e books are all available and you can download the audios too if thats your bag from audible.com. Sorry I should say the 'award winning' audios.

Ger

I know they're bringing out a trilogy edtion of Dead in June and I assume (though I dont know) 50 G will be out around then too.

and again cheers mate

a...

marco said...

For a moment my heart leapt with joy at the tought of an electronic version of Dead I Well May Be.
Then I realized it is protected against copies and interpolations.
Meaning I still haven't resolved the problem of how to translate the book into a word document in order to then translate it from English into Italian.
Sigh.

v-word:psesters

adrian mckinty said...

Marco

A scanner? I'd email you my last e version but honestly its more trouble than it would be worth because of all the hand written changes.

seanag said...

Too bad! I thought the ebook version might really be the answer. I assume it's the same with the Kindle link?

adrian mckinty said...

GB

I'll do a linky dink to this in a day or two, to stretch it out more...Savvy eh?

Maybe I'll shift more than two boxes of copies this time and if so the pints are on me mate. And no driving back to Dundrum either.

A...

marco said...

A scanner?

I've tried with my cousin's scanner,but while it is good for images text recognition is very bad-you can barely make out a coherent word in the page.
There is a free program for enhancing text recognition,but doesn't run on Vista.
Professional scanners seem costly,but I'll investigate further.

I'd email you my last e version but honestly its more trouble than it would be worth because of all the hand written changes.

I think you should.
I've already began to slowly copy the book into a file,but in this way I'd have at least a version to work with.Of course I'd have to correct it comparing it with the book,but it would still be quicker than typing every word.

And,while books I like I prefer to have in dead-tree versions,and I still want a physical galley,how's the situation with 50G?

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - So if Simon and Schuster are still attached to the ebook, is that why they won't release the rights? Seems a bit unfair to me, especially since it's a killer book, but then I'm a mere mortal and the logic of the publishing world is harder to grasp than transubstantiation.

I've asked my wee brother in advance. There's a spot for me on the sofa at his student house after your Fitty G launch. I might wake up and realise I've used pizza as a pillow, but it'll be worth it.

Marco - hope you figure out a DIWMB solution. Keep me up to date on that, please. It's very CSNI relevant.

Ciao

gb

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

I hope this doesnt go to court but the reason S&S say the book is still in print is because of the e book and the audio book which is ridiculous.

Marco

Ok, once we complete the move, I'll find the other computer and send you an older version. I beg you not to use it though, its nowhere close to the book.

The galley fairies tell me they'll be sending out my box at the end of next week.

marco said...

Adrian

Of course I won't use it as is and I'm sure there are cuts and changes,but but even if,say,I'll have to rewrite a third of the e-text it will still be an improvement.
The problem with normal scanners is that they only produce image files.Those who have effective inbuilt utilities for conversion from image to text cost around 300€,which is a bit much,especially b/c I don't think I'll use it often.
I'll ask the computer guy if there are ways around it.

The galley fairies tell me they'll be sending out my box at the end of next week.

What I meant was,I WANT my galley in book form and don't you dare withhold it from me,but if/when I'll start working on 50g,will you have an e version to send me?

adrian mckinty said...

Ger

I like to generate a bit of suspense but yes its 100 percent true that "I scored a goal once at Villa Park."

adrian mckinty said...

Oh yeah e version of 50 G is an easy one, same prob applies though, big chunks missing that I hand wrote or changed. for instance there's a scene where our detective has a scientology strees test interview, in the original MS. that gets a one line mention, but I decided that it could make an interesting scene in itself and also to break up two other plot filled scenes, so I hand wrote the scene on the Ms. and sent it in.

Ger can tells us if he thinks it works or not but I think its a good counterpoint to some of the darker stuff and its good reportage - pretty much verbatim of when I did my own "strees test interview."

But yeah I can e both to you.

adrian mckinty said...

Although I do remember you mentioning that Ger's the cute one...

Even dishier in real life I can tell you and now that we know about the Kung Fu...Mrs Ger, you're a lucky womann.

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - I appreciate the compliment, as I'm carrying a little 'holiday weight' right now.

Everybody else - Compliments aside, I thought the Scientology scene Adrian mentioned to be a little stroke of comic genius. For a more personal insight, read Adrian's Denver post before or after you've read the novel. And I didn't think it added to the balance because the wry humour seemed to be more integral to the 50G protagonist than any other McKinty character I've read to date.

Cheers

gb

Gerard Brennan said...

Sorry folks, the link in the last comment should have led you here!

I blame cheap wine and a reluctance to bow to the idea of new year resolutions.

gb

Stuart Neville said...

You know, the audible version might be the answer. I'm getting precious little time to read at the moment, so an audio version might be a good idea. Never tried an audio book before, and I think I'd prefer that over an E-book.

Gerard Brennan said...

Stuart - They're pretty good for long journeys. Come to think about it, it's been a year since I've had one in my car. Must remedy that.

Cheers

gb