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Friday, July 24, 2015

Black Sheep. Arlene Hunt. Hodder Headline Ireland (2006)

A very gripping and engaging story about the disastrous consequences of a murder. A witness to a murder in Dublin has his own reasons for keeping quiet, the victim's brother however wants to know what really happened and hires investigators John Quigley and Sarah Kenny to find out. The investigation quickly becomes much more serious after a visit to the victim's house crosses with a burglary and the story unwinds steadily and cleverly down to a very satisfying and rather bitter conclusion. The story has tremendous momentum as actions have unintended consequences which lead to more actions and more consequences. The ebb and flow of the action is strong and credible, the events never appear to be simply required by the plot , they flow with a gripping inevitability from the actions and reactions of the cast.
The wide and very diverse cast are the core of this book, Arelne Hunt has managed to avoid cliche and gives each of the cast a credible voice and context, they are pulsing with life and as they interact with each other create sustained tension and demand the attention of the reader.There are very few sympathetic characters in the book, john Quigley and Sarah Kenny are the only ones really, the rest of the cast are more or less unpleasant, selfish and criminal, all are strongly alive and engaging.
Arelene Hunt has the talent to choose a cliche and write the truth that made it a cliche. A teenage criminal from Dublin who fancies himself as a black American gangster, Sharpie draws his inspiration for life from gangster rap and dreams of being a hard core street warrior. What could easily be a badly drawn cartoon is instead a forceful and dangerous character who is living a dream. Sharpie has the strength and intelligence to take an image and fill it with fierce anger and a deadly will to violence. The friends riding the crest of the Celtic Tiger boom are given equal opportunity to step through the details of their aggressive success and concern for status ans wealth. Each one is given the room and context to reveal themselves and the strange bonds that friendship that form.
The plot mechanics that link the cast together are simple and brilliantly effective, they are directly rooted in the cast and the context, they have not been simply overlaid on to them. The action of the story is driven directly by the credible responses of the cast. There is an additional layer to the story that involves Sarah Kenny's family that is unrelated to the action of the book. It explores a strong family tension in a sharp and uncomfortable way and adds greatly to the depth and impact of the story by extending and developing the context for the action. A great read, thrilling, involving and finally moving.

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