We Were Kings
Written by Douglas Graham Purdy
Review written by Jennifer Palmer
Jennifer Palmer has read crime fiction since her teenage years & enjoys reviewing within the many sub-genres that now exist; as a historian who lectures on real life historical mysteries she particularly appreciates historical cime fiction.
Released: June 30 2016
It’s Boston in the 1950s. It is really hot; not just the weather, but
the atmosphere around the Irish community, as a series of deaths are
mounting. Can a conflagration be prevented?
In June, 1954, Boston PD detective Owen Lackey recognises that a body found in
Boston harbour has been killed in the typical way that IRA informers are
treated. Owen has also failed to apprehend in time a boat, about
which he had been tipped off is bringing guns and ammunition to the City.
He asks Cal O'Brien, his cousin and an ex-cop, and Dante Cooper, an addict just
clinging on to sobriety, to go into the depths of the city's Irish underworld
to investigate. They have tragic back histories and are struggling in
different ways to survive. In a previous book, Serpents in the Cold, their history was described in stark detail.
The fetid conditions of Boston in the throes of a heatwave are an ever present
background. The reader can feel that the poverty of South Boston, that
makes the heat almost unbearable. The crowded dance halls, the Irish
wakes, the Irish bars and the funeral parlours are frequent settings.
The violence escalates as more men are shot. Things are boiling up
to some sort of potentially apocalyptic climax. A priest
says to Cal (who is asking about his fathers’ actions in the past) "Don't forget that to them, they're
not in America. They're three thousand miles away but they're still home.
This isn't about America. Don't forget that." It's a grim world of
violent men, perverted ideologies, corrupt police and appalling discomforts in
which desperation reigns.
There are so many battles and so much violence that the reader becomes sickened;
though that may well be the aim of the writers, but it makes for a miserable
read. The writing is of high quality, but the subject matter is
irredeemably bleak. A conclusion is reached, but not a warning, it may
not be a happy one.