All the Dead Voices, Hughes' fourth novel featuring Dublin investigator Ed Loy, is peppered with pointed, clever, plot-relevant contemporary references. My favorite is this thoroughly contemporary wisecrack: "The text message is a mode of communication ideally suited to lies. Donna adored it."
Other references and asides mordantly assess Ireland's post-Celtic Tiger economic bust and its tendency, like the boom that had gone before, to benefit bankers.
As a journalist, I like Hughes' jab at the "spontaneous" shrines that get left at sites of unfortunate deaths and to which newspapers and television unaccountably devote valuable picture space and screen time: Bits of police tape "and a few drenched bunches of polythene-wrapped convenience-store flowers propped against a wall were all that remained of the crime scene."
Above all Hughes confronts the P.I. story's hoary conventions and embraces them with even more zest than did his hard-boiled predecessors. Take the set piece about the client, almost always a woman, who surprises the P.I. in his office.
We experienced readers know just as well as the P.I. does that the dame is trouble, but a few laconic words of foreboding and resignation from the narrator/protagonist usually suffice to convey this. Not for Hughes. Here's how Ed Loy's two-chapter meeting with Anne Fogarty ends:
"I could hear the sound of the blood in my ears, breathe her scent deep inside me. Stupid, I told myself, stupid, stupid, but I didn't believe me, or I did, but I just didn't care. Worse still, I allowed myself hope."
© Peter Rozovsky 2010