Thursday 12 June 2008

A Wee Review - The Bloomsday Dead by Adrian McKinty

Impressed as I was with Dead I Well May Be, I jumped right in to the next Adrian McKinty book I could get my hands on; The Bloomsday Dead. This is the final part of McKinty’s Dead trilogy featuring the un-effing-killable protagonist, Michael Forsythe. For a full appreciation of the novel, I highly recommend that you read Dead I Well May Be first. And as rumour would have it, so does Mr McKinty, actually. Oh, and see his extended interview on Crime Always Pays for a real insight into his whys and what fors in writing the trilogy. A CSNI review of The Dead Yard will follow in due course, but since the Serpent’s Tail paperback of The Bloomsday Dead is set for release on the 12th of June, I thought it’d be a good idea to give you readers time to crack open those piggy banks and get to buying McKinty’s work.

On with the review!

The Bloomsday Dead finds Michael Forsythe living it down in Lima, Peru. He’s on the run from the New York Irish Mob through the FBI Witness Protection Programme. His past sins against the mob include a bunch of spoilers for Dead I Well May Be, so forgive me for not going into further detail. Just know that this book takes us from Lima to Belfast with some flashbacks to Forsythe’s time in New York. And again I’m impressed by McKinty’s skill at painting his surroundings vividly by showing rather than info-dumping a knowledge that he’s obviously gleaned through personal experience. Google and read up a thing or two about Adrian McKinty and you’re not long figuring out he’s a wandering soul, as is his protagonist from the Dead Trilogy (though for slightly differing reasons – I hope). However, Forsythe’s love/hate relationship with Belfast is made all the more real, I suspect, by the fact that McKinty has not lost touch with his Northern Irish roots.

Michael Forsythe’s role has matured as has his characterisation. He’s no longer the white-hot fury that scorched the pages of part one. That’s still part of his make-up, but he’s also developed a world-weariness that is put across expertly. And revenge is not his sole driving-force in this final part. He has taken on the part of an investigator. A badass, heavy-handed and morally complex investigator, but all the more interesting because of it. So many times in this downward character arc I was convinced the guy had to give up the ghost and lie down for the next two hundred, then one hundred, then fifty then ten pages of the book. Michael Forsythe struggles towards the denouement scrapping, spitting and cursing, always considering surrender but finding it beyond his nature. A fascinating thing to witness.

The ending, I can’t really talk about (I’m anti-spoiler, remember?), though at one point Forsythe compares it to a Spanish Soap Opera, which is hard to argue against. And as the reader wrestles to suspend his disbelief and allow the impact of the surprise twist, so does the protagonist. A risky way to play it, as some critics could argue that McKinty’s having trouble believing it himself, but I personally think it works. And it makes for some real emotional writing from the expert in heart-wrenching that is Adrian McKinty.

And so, this bastard child of Tony Soprano morality and James Joyce literacy ends the Michael Forsythe trilogy. I’m sad to see the thug go, but hey, everything has to end some time. And we’ve Adrian McKinty’s Fifty Grand to look forward to in the not-so-distant future.

Incidentally, Adrian McKinty is journeying all the way from Australia to launch the release of The Bloomsday Dead at No Alibis Bookshop, Botanic Avenue, Belfast. The event is set to start at 6.00pm on Wednesday the 11th June. Not a kick in the arse off the actual Bloomsday date, 16th June (A James Joyce related celebration). Be there! But if you can’t, he’ll be in England as well. Will post dates and locations soon for you English McKinty fans.


Anonymous said...

i agree with you about The Bloomsday Dead. loved the belfast location. it is sad to see him go, but how many times can he scrape back from the brink!
you need to read the dead yard and also hidden river worth checking out.
i hope i can make it to No Alibis for the launch.


Gerard Brennan said...

Hiya, Allen!

Yeah, you're right. McKinty timed the departure well.

I've checked with Dave at No Alibis and he has copies of Hidden River. Will pick one up at the signing. I have a copy of The Dead Yard, but am taking a wee break from Michael Forsythe to read Declan Burke's The Big O. So far so great, I might add.

If you recognise me at the launch, say hello, won't you? Me missus can't make this one as we won't have a babysitter, so I'll be the one sitting on my own and drinking water.


colman said...

drinking water again?

give it to Strachan and he'll turn it into wine

Gerard Brennan said...


You follow the SPL? And a Hoops fan, no less. Well, I have to say, I'm don't really have time to keep up with the footie in any league, but your comment got me thinking... Maybe Strachan could walk on water and pay a visit to Donegal Celtic. See if he can seat the 5,000?


Was that a tumbleweed?

Ah, come on, that's comedy gold!


colman said...

never knew there was a DOnegal Celtic.I know years ago there was a Belfast Celtic that I think got disbanded because of the mayhem that ensued every time they played opposition of a differing persuasion, shall we say.
Used to know an old fella in Luton who used to play for them before playing for Super Luton in the 50s...Bud Aherne, an absolute gemtleman