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Adrian McKinty
The Dead Yard
Reviewed by: Terry D’Auray © 2006

Scribner/Simon & Schuster
US Hardcover First
ISBN: 0-7432-6643-9
Publication Date: March 2006
304 Pages; $24.00
Date Reviewed: March 1, 2006

Index: Mystery  General Fiction

Michael Forsythe, the Irish hero of McKinty’s terrific debut novel ‘Dead I Well May Be’ returns from a three-year hiatus in ‘The Dead Yard’, bringing with him his uncanny knack for stumbling into trouble and his predilection for falling for the wrong women, in this dark story of intrigue, double-dealing, and deception. McKinty’s fast pacing, sophisticated plotting and energetic prose makes ‘The Dead Yard’ yet another winner.

Michael, in the FBI’s witness protection program after bringing down an Irish mobster, has the bad luck to get thrown in jail while watching a soccer-match-turned-bloody while vacationing in Spain. Seems bad luck still finds Michael a sure thing. Facing extradition to Mexico, where he’s wanted for escaping from a Mexican jail, he agrees to help a gorgeous British Intelligence agent infiltrate an Irish terrorist cell outside Boston. The splinter cell, Sons of Cuchulainn, has vowed to disrupt the Irish peace process with terrorist violence. As Michael goes undercover to thwart this sleeper cell’s vow, it’s easy to envision all the sorts of disasters that might lie ahead. Trouble with the beautiful British agent who recruited him and even more trouble with the boss’s beautiful daughter; cell members who revel in particularly gruesome methods of torture; and certain trouble with the daughter’s boyfriend who’s out to make sure Michael never looks too good. But whatever disasters we might envision would never come close to the depth and devilishness of those that McKinty serves up for our reading pleasure.

Novels that turn on undercover infiltration have a certain built-in suspense — will the infiltrator be discovered and if so, what might be the consequence. McKinty takes this structural suspense and ratchets it well beyond the norm by exposing Michael to ever-escalating risks of discovery, evermore complexly layered lies and defenses, and an ever increasing and progressively more horrifying understanding of the brutality of the consequences should he be caught. Cross, double-cross, deception and subterfuge meld into a page-turning storm of violence, fear, torture and nearly unbearable suspense.

While Michael Forsyth is a truly masterful protagonist, tough, savvy, and wholly engaging, McKinty populates his novels with supporting characters, both male and female, who are equally well developed, vivid and compelling. Gerry, Seamus and Touched (aptly named indeed) the leader and members of this fanatical terrorist cell are each uniquely portrayed and believably dangerous. Samantha, the British Intelligence agent is provocative without being a caricature, and obviously smart. Kit, the attractive but immature daughter of cell-leader Gerry and actively involved in the terrorist plan, is excitable and easily swayed. Her boyfriend Jackie is a self-promoting, conniving creep, who can nonetheless stir up enough trouble to put Michael’s life in perpetual peril.

‘The Dead Yard’ is a high-voltage action book with strongly developed characters, rendered in lyrical Irish prose that is alternately poetic or brutal, sensitive or sarcastic. McKinty writes scenes of violence and torture with a raw intensity and forcefulness unequaled among contemporary crime writers. (Fans of Charles Huston will find a lot to like in McKinty’s novels). The denouement is all animalistic survival and revenge, far too intense to read straight through, at least for me. I needed a time out or two — to get my breath back and to settle my stomach. It’s pure edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff, fast paced, highly polished and ever so brutal, a true read-it-and-wince experience. And as the last page is turned, McKinty leaves us with a promise for third Forsyth novel yet to come. While I’ll begrudge the wait, I’ll be first in line for the next installment.

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