PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Cover design: Marie Lane
Just Read: Dirty Old Tricks by Pat Gray. A thriller set in the Northern Irish Troubles. In 1975, in Belfast, finding a murdered schoolgirl counts as “almost normal” in the midst of the civil war going on for a cynical Detective (in the best tradition of Raymond Chandler): “The radio burbled police small talk in the lull of a day when the bad men slept and the honest folk tried to begin their daily business.”
'Belfast in 1975 provides a gloomy backdrop for this murder mystery, which opens with RUC officer Michael McCann lying awake, half-expecting to be kidnapped and killed, setting the tone for the discovery of 15-year-old Protestant schoolgirl Elizabeth McCann, murdered and dumped in a Catholic area. It’s a grim enough crime as it is, but the constant presence of armoured cars and automatic weapons adds a further layer of bleakness to the oppressive mood. Even the routine business of door-to-door enquiries becomes a military operation with the potential to escalate into violence. McCann has to consider the possibility that the paramilitaries have sunk low enough to sanction tit-for-tat schoolgirl murders, and it’s “not easy to detect clues, in a hard country where men never cried”. Creepily compelling, Gray’s fourth novel probes deeply into darkness, weaving an atmosphere of tension and distrust that permeates every part of McCann’s investigation, including his relationships with colleagues. It’s masterfully done, but chilling and hard-hitting stuff.'