Judith Sullivan is a writer in Leeds, originally from Baltimore. She is working on a crime series set in Paris. Fluent in French, she’s pretty good with English and has conversational Italian and German. She is working to develop her Yorkshire speak.
Black Irish is the setting in Buffalo, New York, a city that was once great and industrial and strong. Like so many American cities and towns, it has lost much of its lustre.
Herself of Irish descent, robbery-homicide detective Abbie (for Absalom, not the expected Abigail) Kearney is working in this city and rises to the challenge the Blackest of Irish cases offers. Having returned from Miami to Buffalo to address personal issues she’d thought buried, she pursues the perpetrator of a string of grisly murders and these ones are especially nasty – including at least one corpse chopped up and then reassembled - wrongly. Left in the County area of Buffalo, so named due to a large Irish population, the corpses are found adorned with toy monkeys. There is nothing funny about the torture, rape and pain inflicted on them by the killer, though.
The quest for the bad guy leads Abbie into historical links with Irish terrorists and people-trafficking that places her in direct danger, including an especially hair-chilling scene in a frozen river. She prevails and untangles the weird and horrid string of murders, not as linked as first thought.
Though Talty now lives in New York City, he captures the grit of Buffalo, embodied by its “silent smokestacks.” There are parts of Buffalo, he tells us, in which life is so dull, kids climb up silos and sometimes fall out with fatal consequences just because there’s not much else to do. And we believe him. Talty makes full use of his strong language skills and also cleverly inserts musical references most notably The Crying Game, which sounds almost as chilling as in the famed 1992 film.
A good read, well written and a story that moves fast and won’t let the reader put the book down. The author writes wisely about men and women both, and Abbie is a fully rounded character, caught between her family and her job, her working class roots and her top-flight education.
This is a tough detective facing a tough case and we hope she has more to grapple with in the future.