For decades, Jimmy Kingston has owned the drug trade in most of Dublin, a situation maintained by favours for those who accept his rule and the threat of dire retribution for those who don’t. So, when the Griffin Brothers attempt to expand their territory into his, Kingston both wants and needs to strike back hard. As violence escalates between the factions, family and friends are drawn ever closer to the conflict, the original dispute over territory is lost to brutal feuding, and the police face greater pressure to act now.
From the opening scene on, McFinnigan reveals a world of violence and criminality that exists half-a-step from the comfortable lives of ordinary Dubliners. While there are moments of loyalty and bravery, there are no glamorous anti-heroes or commendable motives to leaven the grit and brutality of this drugs war.
As such, while McFinnigan does not seek shock for shock’s sake, the novel contains graphic descriptions of injury and torture.
Shifting the narrative back and forth between those allied with Jimmy Kingston and those allied with the Griffins, Mc Finnigan provides readers with both a greater immersion into the expanding conflict, and a greater understanding of how each apparent side is filled with tensions.
Interwoven through the events of the gang war are scenes following the police investigation lead by Detective Adams. The slower, more ordered, nature of this thread contrasts with the scenes of gang war both making the violence more stark and the delays caused by due process more frustrating.
As McFinnigan freely admits in his author’s note, the events of the novel are written to entertain rather than provide an authentic picture of the drugs’ trade in Dublin. However—while some readers might notice inaccuracies—the story feels like a plausible way for drug dealers and violent criminals to act, so most readers are unlikely to notice deviations from reality or care if they do.
McFinnagan’s characterisation is similarly a skilled balance of contrasts. Whether criminal, police, or unaligned, each character is driven by a combination of motives: a gangster might both love their brother and seek to seize power from him; a youth might both fear to turn down a drug gang and have no opportunities for legitimate work. As such, while many of the classic crime-thriller tropes are present, none of the characters are merely a long-suffering elder sister, sadistic lieutenant, or cynical detective. McFinnagan’s ability to craft sympathetic characters is such that—while a few of the view-point characters seem solely villains—it is likely that readers will find themselves rooting for both members of each gang and the police team seeking to stop them.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel greatly. I recommend it to readers seeking a fast-paced, crime thriller that neither shies from nor revels in the grimness of life outside the law.
I received a free copy from the author with a request for a fair review.