One from Scotland, one from Ireland
In Galbraith's novel, Detective Sgt. Alice Rice investigates a series of murders "among Edinburgh's professional elite in the well-to-do New Town." In Hughes', the narrator observes of Dublin's upscale shopping district that "It had a sleek sheen to it now, a brash, unapologetic confidence about itself that had been thin on the ground in Ireland twenty years before. It also had a derelict in every doorway" and even more acidly on a financial complex that "made Dublin look like any other city. I guess that was the point: at one stage in our history, we tried to assert a unique Irish identity by isolating ourselves from the outside world. All that did was cause half the population to emigrate. Now we preferred to avoid distinctive national characteristics of any kind."
Beyond their attitudes about prosperity and globalization, each novel has distinctive characteristics in its early pages. Galbraith's dialogue may not be the sharpest, but she knows how to make a victim's death shocking by playing it down. And she paints vivid pictures of her overworked police officers not by creating new types, but by performing the perhaps more difficult feat of revitalizing old ones.
Rice, like many another hard-working police protagonist, feels estranged from her colleagues, but her alienation has a real edge. Her "gender, resolute middle-classness and graduate status all marked her off as alien within the force, and now even in the civilian world she often found herself adrift. ... The point of contact between her world and that of her friends seemed to be growing fewer as time passed." Even better is this: "DCI Bell looked pale, ivory white with blue-black rings bordering her eyes, unconcealable by any make-up. She was a workaholic, and her addiction, knowingly nurtured by her superiors, was destroying her health." (Italics mine.)
The Hughes looks as if it will be a convincing take on the private-eye noir, complete with a randy femme fatale, a missing relative, money, lawyers, and a wisecrack now and then. The wisecracks can be wryer and darker than the usual run of the species, though, as here, from the novel's short prologue: "Planning a murder in advance doesn't guarantee that you cut down on blood, although it can help."
And how's this for an opening, from Chapter One: "The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband."
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
Irish crime fiction
Scottish crime fiction