Monday, February 1, 2010

Winterland by Alan Glynn

I was tempted to throw in an imaginary subtitle: The Lost Language of Cranes, but that was already taken. Anyone who visited Ireland four or five years ago, as I did, could not have failed to get the reference. There were cranes everywhere--new schemes, new money, even all new people (another stolen literary reference). Attractive young Irish people flocked the streets in expensive new clothes--never have I felt so old and past the moment--and the small hotels and bars and pretty much everywhere were staffed by Asians and Eastern Europeans, most of whom did not seem at all happy.

That moment, for better or worse, is done--at least for the time being. Capital, and labor, has come and fled again, as it has so many other places. This is the setting of Alan Glynn's excellent new novel Winterland.

The initial setup is this: a young thug, Noel Rafferty, is murdered at a local pub. As he is revealed from the outset to be a very unpleasant character, we do not mourn him much. But his tightly knit Dublin family does, of course, and their grief is more than doubled when his uncle, his namesake, dies in a car accident that very night. Tragic coincidence, yes, but their common relative Gina Rafferty begins to doubt that all is exactly as it seems. Gina's company, a start-up, is having troubles in the new economic climate. And it's not the only thing that's suffering in the fallout of global recession.

I love the way the local and the global overlap and affect each other in this novel. I also love the acute depiction of the way government and business and law enforcement are all in each other's pockets. Gina Rafferty is a great and fearless character in this setting. Here's hoping we hear a bit more from her in the future.


  1. We did! (visit Ireland four years ago). And we certainly noticed the surge of optimism and the new people.

    Fine review as it gives a bit of background as well.

  2. Thank you, Dorte. I may have painted too bleak a picture of the current situation, though. I know that a lot of Eastern Europeans have gone back home when the work dried up, but I doubt that the cranes have entirely gone.

    This could actually be a post for The Global Reading Challenge, except that I promised myself I would venture a bit farther afield from my Irish, Scandinavian and British crime writing for this one. Fortunately, I've got a Fred Vargas coming up for review soon!

  3. There are still cranes everywhere in Dublin... probably waiting for work to pick up again.

    You may be interested to know that my photo is used on the Saint Martin's Press edition of "Winterland".

    It is part of a series of documentary photos started a few years ago:

  4. I have that book, Anouilh, and I love the cover! In fact, I now have both editions, and as the British or Irish version is signed by the author, I will apparently have two copies from now on.