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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncompromising, unflinching and brutal police procedural
Black Irish is a decent read with enough threat and darkness to satisfy most readers of crime fiction.

Stephan Talty writes in a crisp, no-nonsense style and keeps his dialogue sharp while remembering to add enough dark humour to break up the violence which occurs regularly in Black Irish. This is a novel with more than it's fair share of darkness and at times...
Published on 29 Mar. 2013 by JK

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars This should be so good....but it's not
Black Irish is the story of Absalom (Abby) who returns to the town where she grew up following a mistake as a police officer in Miami. She also returns to look after her father who is getting progressively worse with Alzheimers.

This should be a great tale... the story is - when you finally get there! It just takes so long to get going you want to give up...
Published on 10 July 2013 by ratscat13


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncompromising, unflinching and brutal police procedural, 29 Mar. 2013
By 
JK "J. K." (UK) - See all my reviews
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Black Irish is a decent read with enough threat and darkness to satisfy most readers of crime fiction.

Stephan Talty writes in a crisp, no-nonsense style and keeps his dialogue sharp while remembering to add enough dark humour to break up the violence which occurs regularly in Black Irish. This is a novel with more than it's fair share of darkness and at times Talty flings his characters into nail biting situations with lethal consequences.

I'm always happy to see a female character leading a police investigation and initially 'Abbie' is a force to be reckoned with as she picks her way through a plot packed with political groups, secrets and lies. The depth of the back story involving the Irish community of Buffalo is well evoked and the inner workings of a small community within a large city adds enough intrigue to keep the reader involved.

Talty keeps the tension building by introducing a particularly brutal serial murderer into his plot and plays a decent game of cat and mouse between Abbie and the murderer as they circle one another.

Although Black Irish has a female lead it does have a masculine heart which makes for a tough, violent read packed with threat. Murder scenes and general violence are concepts the author handles with confidence and the opening pages leave you in no doubt you're travelling down a brutal path.

My criticism of Black Irish, and the reason I've marked it at 4* not 5*, is Abbie's downturn as a character. In the initial chapters she's a tough talking, smart, professional women but then she suddenly evolves into little more than a beautiful/sassy' cliche making awful decisions and showing a complete lack of judgement. Would a professional police officer act in the way she does during such an important and complex investigation? I doubt it, and if she did she'd be off the investigation. It's that weakness in her character, so stereotyped, that reduces the quality of writing because the principle character became difficult to believe in.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buffalo Blues, 7 Jan. 2014
By 
elkiedee "elkiedee" (London) - See all my reviews
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I love a story with a strong sense of place, and the city of Buffalo, New York State, is a vivid and memorable part of this crime fiction debut by Stephan Talty.

Detective Absalom Kearney has returned to her hometown for both career and personal reasons. She hopes to make a fresh start as a police officer, and she needs to be near her dad, also a legendary police detective before his retirement.

While Abbie does have police colleagues she is supposed to be working with, she seems to be more of a lone wolf style detective, there isn't much police procedural work here - this novel and its character may be influenced as much by hardboiled private investigator stories as by tales of police detectives.

This is a story of frustrating work in a challenging environment - South Buffalo is portrayed as a rather grim urban landscape of post industrial decay with all the problems of unemployment and crime that brings. Abbie's case is the sort of missing persons case, she thinks, where usually the police "would just ask the family if Danny or Maura preferred crystal meth or alcohol". Abbie's work is not made any easier by her status as an outsider - she is adopted and is "Black Irish", marking her out as rather different from the local people, then there is her prestigious Harvard education in a place where many people don't even finish high school.

The pace is sometimes uneven but it is beautifully written. I was unaware of Talty's previous work when I read the book, but learning that he is a journalist and author of a number of non fiction works makes a lot of sense, as there is so much detail about the city and some of its people, especially the Irish American community Abbie's adoptive father brought her up in.

I am a bit surprised to learn that Black Irish is the first instalment of a planned series, as the case turns out to be so personal for Abbie and her father, but I am now intrigued and look forward to finding out how Detective Kearney will deal with her next case.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Crime novel with a WOW factor - 4+, 10 Mar. 2013
By 
Blue in Washington "Barry Ballow" (Washington, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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It's not often that you come across a crime thriller that doesn't have some kind of formula basis (flawed protagonist, police corruption, etc)., but Stephen Talty's "Black Irish" struck me as one of the exceptions. This first novel from Talty (he is a bestselling non-fiction writer) is original, intelligent and smacks of real people and a real place (Buffalo). The language and writing style are clean and clear and the plot and characters are dynamic and credible. It is one of those rare books that you don't want to put down, even for food, drink or the bathroom.

The novel's protagonist is a South Buffalo detective--an anomaly in that city in that she's a woman on a force that is the poster group for traditional Irish cops. The story opens with a really, really chilling murder that will be followed by several others. The killer has a very personal agenda that appears to target members of an IRA-affiliated social group who are harboring a nasty secret. Her own father is somehow connected to the group and is therefore a potential murder victim. The plot takes some very satisfying twists and turns and concludes (several times) in ways that the reader just doesn't see coming.

Author Talty has drawn wonderful, meaty characters and given them smart, credible dialogue. He evokes the town and and its economic and climatic conditions equally skillfully. The book's pacing is snappy and often close to breathtaking as the number and ferocity of the murders increases. You couldn't ask for better in the crime genre and I'm willing to bet that the book and author will be up for some kind of award in the coming year. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ice cold in Buffalo., 4 Mar. 2013
By 
russell clarke "stipesdoppleganger" (halifax, west yorks) - See all my reviews
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Killers, it would seem excel on frigid freezing landscapes and the rather sadistic killer of Stephen Taltys debut novel Black Irish is no exception. But , as the title would suggest, this is not set in some Scandinavian city or backwater but Buffalo in the United States-though the action does flit into Canada. Black Irish takes you inside a community that wants justice, but doesn't trust outsiders to bring it, even shutting Irish Americans out of the circle whose ancestry hails from politically unpopular regions of the "Old Country".
Detective Absalom "Abbie" Kearney is investigating a spate of murders that suggest the killer is working to an agenda motivated by events in their past. The killer is sending a message-one that only the fiercely secretive citizens of the Irish-American neighbourhood known as "the County" understand, and one that seems especially tailored for Abbie's ears.
She has returned to her hometown after surpassing all the hopes her former detective father has for her .But she will have to dig deep into the past overcoming secrecy , chauvinism and adversity, not least from her own colleagues.
Black Irish is a decent enough debut thriller, which sometimes surprises and quite often grabs the reader by the throat. Lead protagonist Abbie is a fearsome character, determined, intelligent , driven and as hard as a diamond sledge hammer....with a grit stone handle. There are a couple of mis-steps where her character behaves out of kilter with her established persona. Or at least I felt so. Inevitably this involves romance-a common mistake in thrillers involving female leads. Once or twice the plot tries too hard to be clever and tricksy , but overall it hangs together well.
While not a novel for the squeamish or easily shocked I would not say that Black Irish is especially gruesome , but then I am avid reader of horror novels so am maybe inured to the more hardcore elements of this book. Overall Black Irish is well worth checking out .It augers well for future novels by this author -maybe more with Abbie Kearney at the forefront. It would be nice to see her deal with something less personal and away from the closeted Irish community of Buffalo . Ohh and in somewhere warmer. These ice cold murders are becoming a touch passé now.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Good Start to Possible Future Thriller Writing Career, 10 Feb. 2013
By 
Stephanie De Pue (Wilmington, NC USA) - See all my reviews
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"Black Irish" is the fiction debut thriller by New York Times bestselling author of outstanding nonfiction, Stephan Talty. It's a psychological thriller, with perhaps literary pretensions. Though perhaps best described as verging on the Gothic school of mystery writing: it can be somewhat over the top.

Absalom "Abbie" Kearney has always been an outsider in her own hometown. She is the adopted daughter of an admired local cop; still her troubled past and mysterious parentage make her a misfit in the working-class Irish American enclave of South Buffalo, which the locals call the County - for the 27th county of their homeland across the pond. She's earned a Harvard degree and a police detective's badge; yet she still must struggle to earn the respect and trust of those she's supposed to protect.

Jimmy Ryan's tortured corpse is found stuffed into a cupboard in the basement of a once important local church. Of course, this sadistic sacrilege chills the winter-bound city. It also seems intended to communicate with the fierce, closed mouth residents of the County, a town ruled by an old-world code of silence and secrecy. So her search for the truth is stonewalled at every turn, even by her fellow cops. Finally, Abbie finds a lead at the local Gaelic Club, which specializes in drink, war stories, gossip, and possibly, drugs. Eventually, when the killer's token appears at Abbie's own door, the hunt requires investigation into her own family's past. Grisly murders and grim revelations multiply.

BLACK IRISH, like many mystery novels is organized around dark secrets, often family secrets that are connected with the past. Josephine Tey adopted this Gothic narrative structure in Brat Farrar, and Californian Ross Macdonald used it in numerous mysteries. Knowledge of a dark secret, observes one critic, "is the key to understanding the seemingly irrational and inexplicable events in the present, and it is this drive to make the unintelligible intelligible which characterizes both Gothic romance and crime fiction." The past will haunt and confuse the present, sending the plot into reverse. Both Gothic and detective novels may work backwards narratively to solve mysteries.

The atmosphere in a Gothic novel has been variously described as menacing, gloomy, brooding, and sinister. See Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca (VMC), for one. Mystery novels too may have a haunting, menacing atmosphere, as does BLACK IRISH. And see Minette Walter's The Ice House, Ruth Rendell writing as Barbara Vine's The Minotaur, or Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles. They echo the darkness at the heart of the Gothic novel.

I found BLACK IRISH reasonably well-written, narrative, descriptive and dialog serviceable at least. Loved the descriptions of formerly industrial Buffalo, of which the author is a native, now rather depressed and losing population, and its winter mountains of lake-effect snow. In fact, I'm fond of Buffalo, as I am of all Upstate New York. I've a former beau from there, and visited several times. Areas of it, at least, are quite pretty when not covered with snow. It's got a world-class art museum in the Albright-Knox, with a collection of Renoirs that will knock your socks off. And in my experience, it's also a highly social town, with several professional teams that play in stadiums noted for gourmet fast food, and its own symphony, though that might have failed in recent hard times.

Stephan Talty is the author of the New York Times bestseller Empire of Blue Water: Henry Morgan and the Pirates Who Rules the Caribbean Waves, as well as Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero; The Illustrious Dead: The Terrifying Story of How Typhus Killed Napoleon's Greatest Army; and Mulatto America: At the Crossroads of Black and White Culture: A Social History. I liked this book, perhaps for my own reasons, but I consider it a very good start to a possible future thriller-writing career.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CRACKING FIRST NOVEL, 8 Feb. 2014
By 
Alexander Bryce (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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What a start. This is a gripping crime thriller with some of the most grotesque murders ever set in print.
Located in and around the Irish quarter of Buffalo where old resentments are deep rooted against the British or more specifically the English and where sympathy for the IRA martyrs survives. This is an area that looks after itself and takes justice into it's own hands. The residents care not for interference from the police. Even from those of similar Irish background. The author has obviously thoroughly researched recent Irish troubles which imparted bit by bit as the action progresses is in itself a fascinating history lesson.
A body grossly mutilated is discovered in strange circumstances. Young , beautiful, detective Abbie Kearney investigates and becomes embroiled in a world of evil. Other similar slayings follow. What is the link between the victims? Why the prolonged torture before death and what sick psychopath is the perpetrator. Suspicion falls on several possibles before the the nail biting climax.
Be assured this is a quality page turner. I hope for further novels featuring Abbie from Mr. Talty.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting start, 19 July 2013
By 
Liz Wilkins "Lizzy11268" (England) - See all my reviews
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In "Black Irish" we follow Detective Absalom (Abbie) Kearney in her hunt for a brutal murderer who is striking at the heart of the Irish American community in Buffalo. Thwarted at every turn as the close knit community of "the county" close ranks around its own, she is bound and determined to break through the barriers and catch the killer.

It took me a few chapters to become immersed in this story - the background is important and it took a bit of reading before I understood the heart of the story - but once I was there this was a terrific read. Abbie is a great character with an interesting background - and to see a story that involves the IRA from this point of view was extremely interesting - although not the basis for the tale, it provides the backdrop. As Abbie struggles to unravel the past events that are haunting her present, we see a different side to the idea of community.

Mr Talty's writing is clever and intriguing - the last few chapters of the novel were a complete rollercoaster ride and if as it seems, this is the beginning of a series, I shall look forward greatly to the next instalment. There is a lot still to learn about this place and this lady - and I for one will be waiting in line to find out whats next.Many thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review. Highly enjoyable.

A great addition to the crime and mystery genre I would recommend this to anyone who is an avid crime reader - and also to anyone that likes a good tale well spun and with an ending that isnt immediately obvious. Great stuff. Happy Reading folks!
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3.0 out of 5 stars This should be so good....but it's not, 10 July 2013
By 
ratscat13 "ratscat13" (North East Scotland) - See all my reviews
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Black Irish is the story of Absalom (Abby) who returns to the town where she grew up following a mistake as a police officer in Miami. She also returns to look after her father who is getting progressively worse with Alzheimers.

This should be a great tale... the story is - when you finally get there! It just takes so long to get going you want to give up before anything starts to make sense!

Talty tells a great tale and writes great descriptive passages - however that doesn't result in a good book. I don't care about the silos, Skyway and junkyards. I don't need paragraphs describing them. What would help was an explanation of Buffalo in relation to the American-Canadian border and the Peace Bridge. What I don't need is lots of passages explaining how the County is self sufficient and doesn't welcome outsiders, what I do need to know is where the county is in relation to Buffalo.

I found the whole book to be a jumble of information. Most of which is irrelevant to the tale and long winded in its descriptions. Talty spends too long showing how good he is at writing rather than writing. The story should be good but it is so hard to work out what is relevant that it doesn't start to get interesting until the end. It's also jumbled in when information is given out - for example how does Abby know the specifics of Michael's injury when she meets him for the first time when she doesn't get the letter explaining it until a couple of chapters later? I don't know how anyone can make sense of the crimes as most of the relevant information is missing from the story - replaced by long descriptions of the environment or houses.

Talty should stop trying to impress by his writing and impress by his storytelling. This should have been worth a 5* but I can only give it 3* as it's a struggle to keep reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bizarre, Barbaric & Boring, 10 Oct. 2013
By 
D. Elliott (Ulverston, Cumbria) - See all my reviews
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As a cop thriller/serial killer the storyline of `Black Irish' is bizarre with the main protagonist cop interminably intertwined with possible killers and victims, and action taking place in areas of her childhood. It is barbaric with unwarranted gruesome portrayals of killings and cruel treatment of various individuals. With its stereotyping of both plot and characters, and with over-lengthy obtuse descriptions it is boring. `Black Irish' is a poor imitation of so many other books of the genre, and it deserves no better than 2-star rating.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent first novel, 6 Mar. 2013
By 
I. B. Pitbladdo "jacandian" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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Although an established writer this is Stephan Talty's first novel and a cracking job he's made of it. The lead; beautiful female cop, sassy, smart as paint and takes no guff from anyone is maybe a wee bit clichéd but that takes nothing away from what is a very good story. The writing is good, the plot hangs together pretty well and the pace is swift, what more could you want?
If this quality is maintained future Stephan Talty novels will be on my automatic purchase list.
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