The Irish have always had a way with words. Even before they embraced a written language and beguiled with song and rhyme, but even more since they took up the quill, their words have had the power to entrance those who read them. From Wilde, Shaw, Joyce, O’Casey, and my own particular favourite, Michael McLaverty, the list of Irish literary luminaries is endless.
Why is it, I wonder, that the Irish have long held their high place in literature? It was my Mayo grandmother’s view that this was because ‘we’ve much more bitter experience than most to write about’. She also felt that, from our remote corner of Europe and from the heart of our traditionally big families, we had to both shout and be interesting if we were to be heard at all. However, there are many more Irish names from the great diaspora featuring in the modern literary world too, from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Margaret Mitchell and Eugene O’Neill through to modern thriller writers such as Raymond Chandler, Tom Clancy and Michael Connolly. I like to think however, that the Irish are by nature great observers. This and their natural affinity for self expression enables the Irish to dominate the literary field.
This week, I have had the privilege of reviewing John J. Gaynard’s third novel ‘Green Blood is for France’. John is a widely-travelled Mayo man who has spent the past forty years living in Paris. This, his latest thriller is currently available in Kindle format from Amazon.
The shocking discovery of the murdered and mutilated body of a young black woman on a quiet beach in the west of Ireland sees local Garda Sergeant Timothy O’Mahony drawn into the murky and labyrinthine world of French politics in the hunt for her killer. O’Mahony is no ordinary backwaters policeman, however. Being half French himself, tri-lingual, well travelled and well connected, this once high-ranking officer seems the ideal man – with some of his former rank restored – to establish and lead a special unit to liaise with the French authorities.
As the story takes us from Ireland to Paris and, via the south of France, into the dark heart of Africa, O’Mahony’s prior knowledge of these regions serves him well as he struggles to identify the girl’s killer from a handful of likely suspects. We learn of the sexual shenanigans which took place on board an expensive yacht in the moments leading up to the girl’s death. We are also drip-fed tantalising snippets of O’Mahony’s chequered past and the reasons for his fall from grace. O’Mahony’s demotion has seen him comfortably settled back in his beautiful west of Ireland home and so he feels he has nothing to prove and nothing to lose in taking on this challenging investigation. He is neither complacent nor risk-averse however but is fiercely resolute in his quest for the truth. With the support of his hand-picked team and of friends, family members and past acquaintances, he follows the evidence wherever it leads, engaging assistance from an unlikely source as the story reaches its tense dénouement.
This is a complex political thriller with an intelligent plot, well-drawn credible characters and wholly believable situations and settings. The author’s obvious in-depth knowledge of Paris and the workings of the French intelligence and investigation agencies enable him to draw us along with him as he navigates the French political scene, treading through the fallout of France’s exploitation of its oil-rich former colonies. We are introduced to a seedy world of political, criminal and sexual intrigue and behind-the-scenes devious machinations in the run up to the French elections. We also experience the desperate conditions of the volatile former French Congo as our hero weaves his way between one dangerous situation and the next.
This novel works splendidly on two levels. It hooks us in immediately via a particularly unpleasant crime, with all its possible connotations of human trafficking and sexual exploitation, and offers us multiple suspects and motives to consider. However, it also introduces us to a rather different set of police processes, based on an inquisitorial system established by the Code Napoléon, and shows us how even these well-intentioned and well-established processes may be sidelined by the tarnished hands of corrupt politicians.
What makes this imaginative plot wholly credible is the fact that O’Mahony, though intelligent and experienced, is no textbook hero. A seemingly unlikely roué in tweed and brogues, O’Mahony nonetheless exudes a certain brand of magnetism which enables him to charm every woman he meets – an ability which has proved his undoing in the past but which assists him greatly in his current investigation. His affable nature and equitable management style guarantee him the loyalty of his associates and superiors whilst his background knowledge of French society and his facility with the complexities of the language gain him both the trust and distrust, in equal measure, of French officialdom. He makes mistakes along the way, it is true, but it is his gritty determination, in pursuit of an unprincipled but protected killer, and his exploitation of that same lack of principle which ensures the perpetrator is finally brought to justice.
Timothy O’Mahony is too strong and appealing a character to be consigned to one novel alone and so I hope there will be more adventures to come which will feature this bold Irish detective.
Review by DJ Kelly