In this explosive debut thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water, a brilliant homicide detective returns home, where she confronts a city’s dark demons and her own past while pursuing a brutal serial killer on a vengeful rampage.
Absalom “Abbie” Kearney grew up an outsider in her own hometown. Even being the adopted daughter of a revered cop couldn’t keep Abbie’s troubled past from making her a misfit in the working-class Irish American enclave of South Buffalo. And now, despite a Harvard degree and a police detective’s badge, she still struggles to earn the respect and trust of those she’s sworn to protect. But all that may change, once the killing starts.
When Jimmy Ryan’s mangled corpse is found in a local church basement, this sadistic sacrilege sends a bone-deep chill through the winter-whipped city. It also seems to send a message—one that Abbie believes only the fiercely secretive citizens of the neighborhood known as “the County” understand. But in a town ruled by an old-world code of silence and secrecy, her search for answers is stonewalled at every turn, even by fellow cops.
Only when Abbie finds a lead at the Gaelic Club, where war stories, gossip, and confidences flow as freely as the drink, do tongues begin to wag—with desperate warnings and dire threats. And when the killer’s mysterious calling card appears on her own doorstep, the hunt takes a shocking twist into her own family’s past. As the grisly murders and grim revelations multiply, Abbie wages a chilling battle of wits with a maniac who sees into her soul, and she swears to expose the County’s hidden history—one bloody body at a time.
In a fast-paced, but unnervingly thrilling mystery, author Stephan Talty introduces his readers to a little-known group of Irish Americans living in Buffalo, New York in his debut fiction, “Black Irish.”
Buffalo’s South area is known as the “twenty-seventh county” (there are twenty-six counties in Ireland) or “the County,” for all of the Irish Americans who reside there, descendents of Irish immigrants of long ago. “The County” is a rough area which has deteriorated over time, but its residents are fiercely loyal, especially when there is trouble, or when there are outsiders looking in.
For Detective Absalom Kearney, she is known as an outsider, even though she was raised in the area all her life. With her black hair and blue eyes, she is what the locals call “Black Irish,” and although they respect the police, they are leery of the local girl who went off and came back home. But for Abby, she is just interested in doing her job right, and when a string of unsolved murders begin popping up in her old neighborhood, she battles the prejudice of the area, as well as a killer who seems set on causing mayhem. When Abby stumbles on some secrets that are better left alone, the killer turns his interest to her and does his best to involve the smart detective on a highly personal level.
Talty brings out the big guns of great mystery writing – serial killer, uncooperative witnesses, a brilliant detective and plenty of clues that lead to a spine-tingling, intriguing who-dun-it that will leave readers shivering in anticipation of the outcome. I look forward to reading more from Talty in the future.
Stephan Talty was born in Buffalo, New York to parents who’d emigrated from County Clare, Ireland. He went to Bishop Timon High School before attending Amherst College, where he graduated with a degree in English. After Amherst, he worked at the Miami Herald as a news clerk and police reporter, then became a freelance writer in Dublin and New York. He’s written for the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Playboy, the Irish Times, the Chicago Review and many other publications.
Talty is the author of five non-fiction books: Mulatto America, about the mixing of black and white culture throughout American History; Empire of Blue Water, the story of the great pirate captain Henry Morgan; The Illustrious Dead, about Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the typhus epidemic that doomed it; Escape from the Land of Snows, an account of the Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet in 1959; and Agent Garbo, the story of the greatest double agent of World War II, Juan Pujol.
His first work of fiction, a crime novel called Black Irish, introduces the Harvard-educated detective, Absalom Kearney, and marks the beginning of a new crime series. He is also the co-author of the New York Times bestselling account, A Captain’s Duty, with Captain Richard Phillips, the hero of the Maersk Alabama hijacking. The book is being made into a film starring Tom Hanks, to be released in late 2013.
Talty now lives outside New York City with his wife and two children. His website is www.stephantalty.com
My thanks to Random House books for the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.