Brian McGilloway is a relative newcomer on the crime fiction scene, but is further evidence of the impression that Irish writers are making on the genre. First published in2007, Borderlands is the first in the series of novels concerning Inspector Benedict Devlin of An Garda Siochana, the Republic’s police force. The second is already out in paperback and the third was published in hardback last week, so McGilloway promises a prolific output over the coming years.
As with any ‘first in the series’ crime novel, much energy is spent on establishing the character of Devlin, his milieu and his relationships with his family and colleagues. This is done well and McGilloway has established some solid foundations for the series. Devlin’s patch is the border area between the Republic and the north of Ireland and the context of cross-border crime and the co-operation and competition between the two separate police forces is a rich one that the author exploits well. Devlin is also a character who is rather unusual in contemporary crime fiction in that he sits in contrast to the more fashionable dystfunctional, contradictory, morally erratic detectives favoured by most other writers. Devlin is instead happily married with children with nothing more than a few minor imperfections in his character. The other unusual thing about the novel is that McGilloway writes in the first person – Devlin is the narrator as well. Th is suggests that McGilloway is paying homage to Philip Marlowe, as much as anything and although it seems a little unusual to start with (I can’t help reading Marlowe without the voice of Humhrey Bogart in my head and that doesn’t work here!), I soon got used to the device and came to like it.
Otherwise the novel is a straightforward police precedural involving local organised crime, drugs, prostitution and the secret histories of local business and politicians. A familiar landscape then, but well-written, enjoyable and a quick read. I’ll look forward to the next.