Blue is the Night by Eoin McNamee is the new Irish Times Book Club choice

Win one of 12 signed copies of what author David Peace called ‘a genuine, original masterpiece’

David Peace, bestselling author of the Red Riding quartet, wrote: “Blue is the Night completes McNamee’s magnificent Blue Trilogy – establishing it as one of the very finest series of crime novels ever written – and yet, at the same time, this final novel both illuminates and transcends the previous two to stand alone alongside books as great as The Glass Key and Shutter Island as that rarest of things: a genuine, original masterpiece”

David Peace, bestselling author of the Red Riding quartet, wrote: “Blue is the Night completes McNamee’s magnificent Blue Trilogy – establishing it as one of the very finest series of crime novels ever written – and yet, at the same time, this final novel both illuminates and transcends the previous two to stand alone alongside books as great as The Glass Key and Shutter Island as that rarest of things: a genuine, original masterpiece”

 

Blue is the Night by Eoin McNamee (Faber, £7.99) is the new Irish Times Book Club choice. The third and final novel of his acclaimed Blue Trilogy, following 2001’s Booker longlisted The Blue Tango and 2010’s Orchid Blue, it can also be read as a standalone work. It has been shortlisted for the €15,000 Kerry Irish Novel of the Year Award 2015 to be announced on Wednesday at Listowel Writers’ Week.

Set in Belfast in 1949, Lance Curran is set to prosecute a young man for a brutal murder, in the “Robert the Painter” case, one which threatens to tear society apart. In the searing July heat, corruption and justice vie as Harry Ferguson, Judge Curran’s fixer, contemplates the souls of men adrift, and his own fall from grace with the beautiful and wilful Patricia. Within three years, Curran will be a judge, his 19-year-old daughter dead, at the hands of a still unknown murderer, and his wife Doris condemned to an asylum for the rest of her days. In Blue Is the Night, it is Doris who finally emerges from the fog of deceit and blame to cast new light into the murder of her daughter – as McNamee once again explores and dramatises a notorious and nefarious case.

The reviews for Blue is the Night have been stellar.

David Peace, bestselling author of the Red Riding quartet, wrote: “Blue is the Night completes McNamee’s magnificent Blue Trilogy – establishing it as one of the very finest series of crime novels ever written – and yet, at the same time, this final novel both illuminates and transcends the previous two to stand alone alongside books as great as The Glass Key and Shutter Island as that rarest of things: a genuine, original masterpiece.”

Author Liam McIlvanney wrote: “McNamee’s prose – with its chilly precision and desolate grace – is one of the glories of contemporary fiction. But what most impresses here is how a provincial courtroom drama lays bare the workings of a whole society, its untold codes and nightmares. Blue is the Night is the best book yet from one of Ireland’s most alert and gifted writers.”

Sebastian Barry said: “There is no one to match Eoin McNamee for the clean, clear, resonant sentence structure he has perfected. He is a unique writer... his subject, the inescapable complicity of people in the leak of evil in the world.”

Colin Barrett, reviewing it for the Guardian, wrote: “Just as McCarthy’s work assumed the tattered genre apparel of the western to interrogate the founding myths of modern America, so McNamee mobilises the tropes and conventions of the period crime novel in order to expose the marrow-deep, age-old enmities that will bring the divided society of 1950s Northern Ireland to the threshold of its own era of extendedly bloody transformation.

“Along with a shared thematic seriousness of purpose, I invoke comparison with McCarthy because of his stylistic influence. Though as clean-lined and direct as any classic crime writer, McNamee routinely switches to a biblically cadenced, deliberately anachronistic register reminiscent of the American author.”

Reviewing it myself for The Irish Times, I wrote: “If McNamee’s subject matter is dark and ugly – violent death, cover-ups, conspiracies and corruption – his writing style in stark contrast is lyrical, full of finely wrought passages and memorable turns of phrase, punctuated by staccato sentences. With the same regularity that Stormont once delivered miscarriages of justice, McNamee has delivered another masterpiece of provincial Gothic and the ‘dark grammar’ of murder.”

Maurice Hayes, reviewing in the Irish Independent, wrote: “The storyline is tightly drawn, the prose taut and limpid, but, more than ever, supercharged with menace and the ubiquity of evil. This book stands on its own as a chilling and disturbing recreation of a period and a city in which evil flourishes and truth is systematically distorted, even in the telling. It is beyond noir, becoming more gothic as the story unfolds.”

Hilary A White wrote in the Sunday Independent: “McNamee knows exactly what he’s doing. He wants that chilling prologue to haunt and confound you throughout, just as there’s a reason to keep noticing seabirds being blown inland by stormy forces. It is no accident, meanwhile, that Patricia and Ferguson feel a ‘deep, transgressive undertow’ as she accompanies him in the public gallery during the somehow portentous Taylor trial. The era lends itself to the gothic horror of the murders, but it is McNamee’s economy that supplies most of the dark enigma in an Ulster crime novel that doesn’t have the luxury of using the Troubles as a grand poisonous backdrop. Sublime.”

Donal O’Donoghue in the RTE Guide declared: “McNamee, a writer of power and beauty, carves out thrillers like few others. His syntax is unusual, sentences clipped and sheared, poised and purposeful. But beyond the style there is substance; no more so in this tale of a divided city (Belfast) and a fractured family (the Currans). One of the books of the year.”

McNamee was born in Kilkeel, Co Down in 1961 and now lives in Co Sligo. He has written two novellas, The Last of Deeds and Love in History (Raven Arts Press, Dublin), which was shortlisted for the 1989 Irish Times/Aer Lingus Award for Irish Literature; and the novels, Resurrection Man (Picador, 1994), about the Shankill Butchers UVF gang, later made into a film; Booker-nominated The Blue Tango (Faber & Faber, 2001), which examined the murder of Lancelot Curran’s 19-year-old daughter; The Ultras (Faber & Faber, 2004), about the killing of Robert Nairac; 12:23, based on the final days of Diana, Princess of Wales (Faber & Faber, 2007); Orchid Blue (Faber & Faber, 2010), about the last hanging in Ireland, in Crumlin Road gaol, of Robert McGladdery for the murder of 19-year-old Pearl Gamble, near Newry, in 1961.

He has also written the Navigator trilogy, for children, The Navigator, City of Time and The Frost Child. McNamee also wrote the script for I Want You, a film directed by Michael Winterbottom. He has also written a series under the pseudonym John Creed – The Sirius Crossing; The Day of the Dead and Black Cat Black Dog. These feature the character of intelligence officer Jack Valentine.

Competition

Who starred as the sociopathic gangster in the 1998 film version of Eoin McNamee’s Resurrection Man?

Email your answer, with your name, address, and phone number, to bookclub@irishtimes.com by Friday, May 29th. The first 12 correct answers selected will win a copy of Blue is the Night. Please indicate if you would like a signed copy, in which case we will send the prize out in three weeks’ time, otherwise we will send them out next week.

Next: On Friday, Eoin McNamee writes about his inspiration for Blue is the Night.

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