Blue me away

Eoin McNamee’s brilliant Blue Is The Night has just scooped the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award at Listowel Writers’ Week. When I reviewed it last year for both Metro Herald and the Sunday Independent, I knew it was something special. Just sayin’ like…

Ahem. Anyway, here’s the Metro Herald review. 

Blue Is The Night

by Eoin McNamee

Faber & Faber

UNLIKE your Adrian McKintys or Stuart Nevilles, the crime writing of Eoin McNamee’s Blue ‘trilogy’ does not have the dread of hot sectarianism to provide a wrenching backdrop.

McNamee has made a name for himself with true-crime renderings of subjects such as the Shankill Butchers and the ghastly demise of Captain Robert Nairac. The Blue books – not so much a trilogy in the traditional sense as a gothic inquiry on loosely linked incidents – however are situated in corrupt post-war Belfast, and zero in on Attorney General and High Court Judge Lancelot Curran, whose daughter Patricia was found viciously stabbed near his Whiteabbey pile in 1952. That murder was recounted and reviewed in The Blue Tango (which earned McNamee a Booker longlisting in 2001), and she haunts this third part along with many ghosts in what is a supremely eerie and evocative novel.

With one foot in 1949 and one in 1961, the earlier years see Curran’s advisor and strong-arm Harry Ferguson meddling as his boss seeks to hang protestant Robert Taylor for the horrific murder of Catholic Mary McGowan. Ferguson is out to prevent this to improve Curran’s chances of elevating to the political sphere. But a rot permeates Curran and his family, between his mentally troubled wife Doris and promiscuous 19-year-old Patricia.

Chills waft off the page as Ferguson visits Doris years later in a psychiatric home in the hope of bypassing dark voices in her head and solving Patricia’s mysterious murder. Few writers can build such menace and foreboding within the palette of history as McNamee, his tidy, mesmeric syntax dripping with atmosphere and animating malevolent psychologies, both human and spectral.

An early contender for crime novel of the year.


Published by

Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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