Paul Charles

The Do-Not Press £7.50

Reviewed by Calum Macleod


Christy Kennedy’s usual beat may be that little piece of England that will will forever be a part of Ireland, Camden Town, but when an old man is found eyeless and gutted on his patch, the Ulster-born inspector heads home to Antrim so he can identify the victim, let alone his killer(s). Accompanying him is journo girlfriend ann rea, who should really have learnt how to work the caps key on her computer by now, while Kennedy’s usual police colleagues stay home to follow any leads from their end. Set in 1999, the novel has a refreshingly post-Troubles setting. There’s nary a mention of certain unfriendly organisations known only by their initials and the greatest danger to the enterally famished McCusker of the RUC comes not from terrorists but the choresterol heavy Ulster fries he consumes . Instead the novel harks back to an earlier conflict, World War II, and can be seen as Charles’ tribute to his father and the others of that generation touching on questions of loyalty, cowardence and guilt with the unspoken challenge to all who did not live through the experience: how would I cope? The solution, borrowed as it is from Agatha Christie, will take some swallowing and there a number of factual errors; Charles has his Ulster soldiers fighting in Normandy a year before the D-Day landings - no wonder they were wiped out.

However, perhaps because I read this book after putting down one that was over-long, leadeningly written, badly-plotted and explotative, I gulped the book down like a breath of clear Antrim air. Charles conveys his homeland with a whimsical exile’s eye and, like his countryman Van Morrison in his more sentimental mode, almost has you believing there is no finer place to be than the North of Ireland.