Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dark Times in the City

Gene Kerrigan
Dark Times in the City

Vintage UK, 2010

Danny Callaghan is just drinking in the pub owned by his friend and employer Novak, when two thugs wearing helmets burst in there with the intention to shoot a stool pigeon. knew Danny in prison and asks him for help. Thugs loiter, Danny knocks one of them down and saves the squealer.

Prior to this incident, Danny led quite peaceful and regular life for seven months. After a 12-year sentence for a manslaughter Danny works as a driver for his friend Novak, driving for managers and businessmen.

Danny’s intervention jeopardized plans of a Dublin crime boss Lar Mackendrik. Now Danny regrets that he didn’t let this stool pigeon die.

The novel’s plot tells about those dark times from the title: in the course of reading we learn that a young gang plans to take over and take control of all the illegal ways of making money in Dublin. This plot holds out interest only until such time as Kerrigan feeds us omissions and scraps of plans of the Mackendrik gang to confront young and ruthless thugs. Once Kerrigan moves from theory to practice, interest in reading fades. The corpses fall to the pavement, guts spilled, people burying alive, but in the plot’s turmoil the characters in the story lose all their humanity. It is becoming apparent that Kerrigan is not so good a storyteller: the characters begin to behave against logic, and point of view changes too often.

The first half of the novel, mostly dedicated to Danny's life after prison, is leaner and stronger than the second half. In a realistic manner Kerrigan describes life of an ex-con who, being free, not especially struggle: Danny does not plan to return to prison, and the fate of a simple driver doesn’t burden him. The reader's sympathies are definitely on the side of Callaghan, especially after the author will tell about how Danny had killed a man, what kind of man he was.

Dark Times in the City, despite all its flaws, delivers a lot of fun - but only in the first half.

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