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"Once in a while you come across a book that delivers a blow to the guts, and very occasionally a kick to the arse as well. Gene Kerrigan's LITTLE CRIMINALS is such a book." WR Burnett

Harte's Cross, a small town outside of Dublin, is the home to a small time hoodlum, Frankie Crowe. Frankie has always wanted the easy way, it seems. He left home after his family reported him to the local Garda, Ireland's National Police Service. Ever since he has been on the lam or loosely involved in someone else's capers. Now, he has decided that he wants to commit a large enough crime to set him up for life. He sets his sights on kidnapping a prosperous lawyer, Justin Kennedy. Frankie has old friends who join his 'crew' and the plans are set. Frankie, who has a short fuse, settles differences with Jo Jo, a criminal mentor, when JOJO disagrees with Frankie's plans. This sets in motion a plan and plot that interests the garda. As all plans go awry when not well thought out, Frankie discovers that the better plan is to kidnap Kennedy's wife Angela. One thing leads to another and one of the most exciting and well written crime novels moves ahead.

Gene Kerrigan gives close attention to his characters. They are brought to life with exacting detail and we get to know them. To like them, is another matter, but we care. Besides his crew, we learn about Frankie's ex-wife and child, some of the towns people and, most of all the police. The upper echelons and the lower ranks. Caught in the middle is John Grace, an honest detective. "He had mastered the methodical routine of detective work and was sure of his abilities as a supervisor of those beneath him on the ladder. Those talents got him to a respectable level, at which he lingered." Because Grace knows Frankie, he is brought into assist the police in an in-depth analysis of Frankie and his crew.

The rest of the book plays out the story of the kidnap from the viewpoint of all the gang members and those affected by the crime. It is a mesmerizing glimpse into modern day Ireland, where the Church has little say and the young 'want what they want' as quickly as possible, paying little attention to the customs of yore. Past tragedies and dreams collide, and we have a glimpse into the world of the criminals and those lives that they shatter.

Highly, Highly Recommended. prisrob 08-16-08

The Midnight Choir

Another Country: Growing Up in 50's Ireland
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Frankie Crowe is a man who takes shortcuts. A "little" criminal with a small mind and grand ideas, he is also among the most dangerous of criminals, a young man who is totally self-centered. Recently released from two years in prison, Frankie believes that the dead time in jail is better than working a dead end job. Life in Dublin--at least the kind of life Frankie wants--is expensive, and his current scheme is to kidnap one of Ireland's wealthiest men and hold him for ransom. Collecting a crew of petty criminals, Frankie and his associates conspire to make the snatch, then change plans and kidnap the young wife of their former target. Taking her to the remote countryside, they keep her terrified while they sadistically play with her husband's emotions by failing to contact him as promised. His attempts to obtain the ransom put his own business practices under the microscope.

Filling the novel with the local color of life in and around Dublin, author Gene Kerrigan plots an involving mystery, showing the dark side of Irish life and creating characters the reader comes to know and understand. Not typically noir, this novel is far more interested in showing why characters like Frankie are so unapologetically anti-social, if not sociopathic. As Frankie himself says, "Sometimes you have to do something you know is just plain wrong...It's that or be a loser." Absolutely nothing, including murder, will deter Frankie from his goals.

As author Kerrigan shows, the economic "progress" in the "new" Ireland has changed the fabric of the country for its young people, a number of whom have put their entrepreneurial skills to use in unsavory ways. The old values have waned, and the power of the Church has declined. "It's all about money now, and grabbing your share and a bit of the other fella's." For Inspector John Grace, "The crime just kept on coming, and would keep on coming." Everyone now feels entitled to fulfill his personal vision of the good life, Grace believes, and no one in power cares.

The sociological underpinnings of this novel add depth and complexity to what might otherwise have been a shoot-'em-up in a Dublin setting. Smooth at the same time that it is gritty, and darkly ironic at the same time that it is brutally realistic, Kerrigan's novel often conveys real sentiment, seen even in the lives of criminals like Frankie Crowe. Frankie's callous, asocial behavior, in turn, often enhances the book's emotional impact through its shock value, and the desperate resolution lingers long after the book is closed. Beautifully plotted, sometimes violent, and very involving, Kerrigan has developed a novel which goes beyond thrills and into the realm of literature. Mary Whipple
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VINE VOICEon 21 February 2011
I was not sure I'd want to read a book about an Irish gang who kidnap a businessman's wife and demand a huge ransom. But, persuaded by great reviews by the authors of some of the blogs I regularly read, I decided to try it. And I am glad I did: it is excellent.

The book opens in a small southern Irish village called Harte's Cross, where Frankie Crowe and his sidekick Martin Paxton unsuccessfully try to steal the takings of the local pub. The actions of that day don't feature again until the very end of the book, when their reverberations contribute to a climax that is like a Greek tragedy in its elements of history, fate and hubris.

After the initial bungled robbery, Frankie decides to pull off a more ambitious crime, talking a few of his former friends and associates into helping him to kidnap a rich banker for some easy money. Part of the power of this book is the way in which Frankie seems initially almost sympathetic, perhaps a victim of difficult circumstances who just wants to make enough to put his troubled past behind him and start out afresh with his estranged wife and young daughter, of whom he is very fond.

The author has a real sympathy with all the characters - each of the gang members, for example - which makes them instantly real but also adds to the gripping quality. Our interest in everyone is maintained, nothing is one-sided or easy to judge. The target of the kidnap, Justin Kennedy, is affluent, successful and emotionally hypocritical - yet the author effortlessly makes us identify with him. When the kidnap occurs, Frankie realises he has misunderstood the newspaper "rich list" from which he selected his quarry, and that Justin is a solicitor acting for a bank rather than himself being a banker who can lay his hands quickly on a small fortune. Undeterred, Frankie changes his plan on the hoof, and the gang kidnaps Justin's gorgeous but feisty wife Angela, on the assumption that Justin will more easily be able to liberate the ransom money if she is taken, rather than the other way round.

The other main group of characters is the police: the upper echelons of smooth political and financial ambition, and the lower ranks tainted by back-handers for small favours. Caught in the middle is 46-year-old John Grace, an honest detective who doesn't stoop to the petty rake-offs of his junior colleagues. "He had mastered the methodical routine of detective work and was sure of his abilities as a supervisor of those beneath him on the ladder. Those talents got him to a respectable level, at which he lingered. From early on, Grace recognised his lack of the political skills necessary for zigzagging to the higher reaches of the garda pyramid. He'd come to believe he was the type that gets his nose stuck into a job and by the time he remembers to look up and work out where he's got to, most of his life has gone by."

Because of his past knowledge of Frankie, Grace is called in to assist the high-powered police investigation of the crime, and dryly observes the twin drives of his new colleagues who are striving to find Angela alive while achieving glory for themselves. The rest of the book plays out the story of the kidnap from the viewpoint of all the gang members and those affected by the crime. The knot of tension is twisted as the police draw closer, events continue to go wrong for the kidnappers and Justin alike, and the reader comes to realise Frankie's full psychopathic nature.

The story comes to a climax at Harte's Cross, where the book began: not just a climax to the story that has been told in the book, but an elegiac and fatalistic coming-together of past tragedies and sadness that collide with Frankie's current dreams. The aftermath provides us with sharp glimpses of how the crime against Justin and Angela has devastated everyone's lives - Justin's watch, for example, which in a couple of words at the end tell the reader everything.

My only cavil is the way in which Grace and his colleague end up, which seemed to jar slightly with the sure touch of all the other threads and themes of this apparently simple yet multilayered and tragic book.
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Little Criminals is a cracking read and a lesson in how write all tell and no show, using tight, sparse, expressive prose. There isn't a single sentence that doesn't propel the story forward. Rather than following one person, Kerrigan shifts the point of view, telling different elements of the story from the perspective of a handful of characters, principally the main criminal Frankie Crowe, his reluctant sidekick, Martin Paxton, kidnap victim Angela Kennedy, and copper John Grace. The characterisation is excellent, with each character's back story, neatly and efficiently set out, with a series of wonderful scenes and realistic dialogue. The plot is tight and gripping. There is no real mystery element to the story, nor unlikely coincidences or melodrama, instead it simply charts how the Crowe's attempt at making the big time unfolds, which in and of itself is highly compelling. The whole book is wonderfully evocative of Dublin before the crash, colliding together the worlds of criminal gangs and the corporate elite. Overall, an excellent tale, very well told. Highly recommended.
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on 15 August 2011
An excellent read, offering an insight into the post-economic boom Ireland and a very believable underworld driven to crime as many know no different way. The novel's main protagonist is an amoral criminal who has never known anything other than crime; utterly believable (save for one assault). Believable ending that linked in satisfyingly to the beginning. I shall be buying more of Gene's books, feels like a fresh voice in the crime genre so Irish you can taste the guinness.
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on 1 January 2013
This book is written by a well-known Irish Independent journalist. Storyline of a kidnapping in South Dublin by a group of council estate losers. It is well written and chilling. There is the added bonus that it is set in Dublin so will be of interest to people who know the city.
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on 3 June 2015
Gene Kerrigan's novels are gritty, to the point, and have an emotional heft unusual in this genre. The quality, too, is consistent: read 'em
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on 20 October 2014
Its an easy read and not to difficult to get into. that said it is a forgettable book.
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