Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Declan Hughes: The Colour of Blood

Irish writer Declan Hughes is one of those writers who have brought the private eye hero back to the pages of books and shown that private eye books - even those that form a series - don't have to be clichéd or pastiches of older private eye books, like many seem to think here in Finland. I'm hoping some of these new writers can make it to Finnish - alongside Declan Hughes one can mention Dave White, Michael Koryta, Ken Bruen (whose series with Jack Taylor is coming on television), Don Winslow, Ed Lynskey...

The Colour of Blood, which is part of Hughes's Ed Loy series, was my first Hughes and I can recommend it. With some reservations, though, but more on them later. Hughes belongs clearly to the Ross Macdonald school of the private eye fiction, as he deals with the generational evil, living without love, living without a father or a mother, feeling outsider all the time, just like Ross Macdonald did so deftly in his Lew Archer novels. Hughes just brings the themes to this day: the novel starts with a rich man's daughter being kidnapped - or that's what everyone thinks - and the daddy is being blackmailed with porn pictures of her daughter.

Declan Hughes and Ed Loy are linked to Ross Macdonald and Lew Archer also in that Ed Loy is invisible if he turns sideways. He has his own tragedies, but Hughes never dwells in them as much as, say, Russel McLean in his debut novel, The Good Son.

My reservations were largely about the fact that there were too many characters in the novel - it was sometimes pretty hard to discern them from each other. The book was also a tad too long, even though it's not very long, at some 300 pages. There was also some melodrama that I didn't feel was necessary, especially in the climax.
Nevertheless, this is a very strong book that shows private eye fiction is nothing to sneer about. It's also a strong indication that Ireland has produced many good crime writers in the last decade or so.


Frank Loose said...

Thanks for the review. I'm intrigued, mainly because of your compare/contrast with Ross MacDonald & his Lew Archer books --- arguably the best detective series to ever come down the pike. I remember reading about TCOB back during the summer, too, so it has garnered a following. Guess I need to check it out.

Juri said...

Kevin Burton Smith makes the same argument over at his Thrilling Detective site - see the link for Ed Loy in my post. He points out that the first novel in the Loy series - forgot the title already - has flaws, but he thinks it's a powerful novel. Same could be said for The Colour of Blood.