Dead I Well May Be

Adrian McKinty’s explosive second novel, following the Belfast-set Orange Rhymes with Everything, is an exceptionally literate thriller. Dead I Well May Be, with its title drawn from “Danny Boy,” is a hard-boiled tale of survival and revenge.

Circumstances force Michael Forsythe to leave his beloved Belfast for Harlem and the employ of the ruthless Darkey White. The first third of the novel depicts the upper Manhattan and South Bronx of 1992 as hell on earth as Michael refines the street skills he learned during the Troubles back home.

After a drug sting in Cancun, Michael and his colleagues find themselves in the even more desperate hell of a brutal prison deep in a Mexican jungle. Michael eventually makes a painful, bloody escape, losing a foot in the process, and slowly makes his way back to New York to confront those who have betrayed him.

McKinty has created strong characters, vivid New York and Mexican settings, and a compelling plot, and he writes beautifully, often poetically. There are many wonderful touches, as when Michael brings an audio version of War and Peace to occupy himself during a long stakeout. McKinty’s style and approach to violence owe possible debts to Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, Malcolm Lowry, Elmore Leonard, Robert Stone, Dennis Lehane, Sam Peckinpah, and Martin Scorsese. (The novel is very cinematic.) With occasional stream of consciousness and frequent allusions to James Joyce and other Irish writers, McKinty offers what could well be the first Joycean noir. Dead I Well May Be excels as both entertainment and literature.