A new generation of Irish mystery writers continues to proliferate partly, as one critic argues, in response to Ireland’s changing social landscape. Although Ireland had been one of the poorer nations in Western Europe, thanks in part to its membership in the European Union, Ireland prospered from the 1990’s to the early 2000’s, becoming known as the Celtic Tiger. However, a rise in crime and violence typically accompany a rise in prosperity, and Ireland was no exception. This meeting point between wealth, misdeeds, and fear has given rise to a new literary genre called Irish noir, a blending of American hard-boiled crime fiction with twenty-first century Irish settings, social mores, and dialogue that illustrates the collision of primitive deep-seated violence with the modern world.
One way that the Irish have come to terms with the violence in their country is through the art of storytelling. Psychiatrists explain that storytelling can be viewed as a survival mechanism used by cultures to sublimate or diminish their fears. The act of writing or telling shadowy tales of horror and violence makes evil seem less frightening. Described by one critic as “a stunning new noir voice, dark and stylish, mythic and violent—complete with an Irish lilt,” McKinty, whose own early life was steeped in violence and suspicion, writes novels that fit easily into this new Irish noir genre.
Although noir, the genre made famous by American writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, features tough-talking male protagonists and is set in cities in early twentieth century America, Irish noir, for the most part, is set in dark, shadowy and moody Dublin. Indeed, the Gaelic dubh linn translates as “dark pool.” However, Irish noir is often transplanted to other sinister, shadowy geographic locations such as, in the case of McKinty, inner-city Boston and New York City, locales that fit the noir genre. Both cities contain large Irish communities complete with pubs and have drawn violent IRA men on the run. In this regard, McKinty also uses Mexico effectively in his noir novels, but he has recently come under criticism for using Denver, Colorado, as the setting of Hidden River (2005). As one critic points out, Denver does not work quite as well as a backdrop for the dark horror and violence that, in addition to his lurid descriptions of pain, fear, and brutality, have come to define McKinty’s novels. According to one critic, his novels tend to mirror the real-life violence that has plagued Northern Ireland.
There are no good guys in McKinty’s novels. His heroes are really antiheroes who are, without exception, dark, complex, and brooding: bad boys, drug addicts, and murderers, who just might descend into madness before the readers’ eyes if they are pushed too far. It is not difficult to understand these horrifically violent heroes, because they are products of dark, shadowy, noir worlds and have rarely, if ever, encountered trustworthy people. In McKinty’s novels, everyone, even the seemingly sweet, innocent young women favored by his heroes, is corruptible: No one can be trusted.
In addition, McKinty is an...
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