Call Him Mine: Dial M for murderous prose

Review: Tim MacGabhann’s debut is billed as a literary crime novel but lacks killer writing

Tim MacGabhann: from Kilkenny to Mexico

Tim MacGabhann: from Kilkenny to Mexico

“The verb is the writer sticking his nose in,” Elmore Leonard famously wrote in his rules for fiction. The award-winning American crime writer was referring to dialogue attribution – advocating the use of the word “said” – but it’s a good principle for verbs in general. Of course a strong, distinctive verb can do much to elevate a line, but the wrong verb can be worse than boring old “to be”.

From the opening pages of Call Him Mine, the debut from Irish writer Tim MacGabhann, his choice of verbs draws attention to the writing and takes the reader out of the story. Billed as a literary crime novel set in the dark heart of Mexico, the busy storyline – drug cartels, police corruption, murdered journalists, a love story, a quest for revenge, a second and underdeveloped love story – is made busier still with the choice of language.

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