When I’m asked about my love of Irish Fiction, there is always a nod toward to genre of crime-thriller. I’m not sure why we Irish are so good at creating masterful and mysterious texts, but there has definitely been a surge of amazing crime writers in the last few years. On re-examining this new crop of talent, I noticed a pattern. Most of these debut authors are women. Why is this? Is it that women are finally being taken seriously as crime writers (rather than using pens names or co-writers)? Is it that women can see further inside the brain of both sexes? Is it because females are now in a position to work at their craft full-time, unlike in previous decades?
|Author - Jo Spain|
One of the perfect examples of this phenomenon is debut writer, Jo Spain, who has recently published her novel With Our Blessing with Quercus Publishing. A working mother of four young children, she created her first novel by utilising every spare minute she had available to her. How many male writers, over the years, have had to worry about working full-time, school runs, creating three main meals a day for a family of six, answer never-ending questions from inquisitive children and then try to escape into the mind of a killer in the evening? (Maybe a few, but I would imagine there was a woman floating about nearby.)
Jo introduces the reader to DI Tom Reynolds, and his team, based in Dublin. When the body of an elderly woman is found mutilated in a park, the team are led to a convent in the Irish Midlands. The history behind the walls of the convent is brought to the foreground and fact becomes stranger than fiction. The author cleverly uses multiple narrative voices to engage the reader, and while the book starts with a gruesome murder, the atmosphere shifts from time to time. Part Agatha Christie, part Inspector Morse, it has a whodunnit feel, but with an Irish twist.
The native Irish community is something that can be hard to understand, unless you have been part of it, and along with the ever-present need to be beyond moral reproach, it is an ideal area to set a crime novel. There is always someone looking over your shoulder, twitching curtains or collecting gossip. There are also many, many hidden secrets in our churches and state buildings. This debut addresses some of the more recent discoveries, while showing the more real side to the lives of the Gardaí (Irish Police force). Irish crime fiction may not be as obviously displayed in bookshops outside Éire, but don’t let this put you off. Most of the bestsellers that you see in your local supermarket or chain bookstore, have been placed there by paying a fee. Trust your local independent booksellers, book bloggers and librarians. We are the ones that read the books, give new authors a chance, and all without prejudice.
I am now going through a Canadian Literature phase, and it is near impossible to find these books in a regular bookshop. Don’t be put off by new locations, inaccessible purchasing locations or debut authors. Order any titles you fancy from bookshops, or from independent online booksellers (Kennys.ie do free worldwide postage). Make the world your oyster. You will be grateful to escape the over-used locations of USA, Scandinavia and UK for your crime-fix. Murder has no boundaries…
Check out Margaret's fantastic Bleach House Library blog for great reviews and bookish posts.
Jo Spain has kindly offered a signed copy of her book for a lucky reader with an Irish surprise from Margaret Madden too! See Bookshelf Butterfly Facebook and Twitter for entry details!