THE DYING BREED (UK) /
Father Vincent Tyrrellbrother of noted racehorse trainer FX Tyrrellsummons private investigator Ed Loy and then simply gives him the name of a missing manPatrick Huttonand expects him to take the case. When an exasperated Loy protests that a name does not a case make, Tyrrell pleads the sanctity of the confessional as an excuse for saying no more, but assures Loy the matter is sufficiently grave to merit an investigation. Loy takes the case, in part because he is hard up for money, so much so that he is double-jobbing: hired by a young couple to find out who is dumping refuse on the green space across from their house, the trail leads Loy to an illegal dump where he finds the body of a young man; before the Guards arrive, Loy finds a phone number on the body, which also bears a distinctive tattoo. The number links to a prominent Dublin bookie who, in turn, links to FX Tyrrell.
Meanwhile, a dark-haired beauty called Miranda Hart inveigles herself into Loy's company, offering information about the Tyrrells and more besides. All the while Leo Halligan, the third and most dangerous of the Halligan organised crime family, is out of jail and on Loy's trail for helping to send his brother down.
When a body is discovered in a shallow grave on the Wicklow/Kildare border with the same tattoo as the first, Loy discovers it's the distinctive tattoo sported by jockeys who ride for the Tyrrellscourt Stables: it all points to the body being Patrick Hutton's, and to the trail leading to FX Tyrrell himself.
Against the climactic backdrop of the Leopardstown Racecourse Christmas Festivalfour days of racing that enthrall the entire country, from the punter lurching from pub to betting shop to the society ladies dining in private boxes high above the turfas FX Tyrrell attempts to break the course record for winners, Ed Loy must let the light in on the secrets told in the dark of the confessional; he must uncover the horrific history of systemic abuse in the industrial school Vincent Tyrrell was patron of, part of Ireland's shameful secret history; he must dig deep to understand the tangled bloodlines that pervade, not just the Tyrrellscourt stables, but the troubled Tyrrell family itself, culminating in the discovery of an innocent child with a frightening legacy; he must make a tally of all the trading and dealing, the gambling and breeding that make up The Price of Blood.
"Hired by Father Vincent Tyrrell to find Patrick Hutton, a jockey missing for 10 years, Ed Loy quickly finds himself investigating not one but two grisly murders in playwright Hughes's stellar third novel to feature the Dublin PI (after 2007's The Colour of Blood). At the same time, Loy must stay on his guard against members of the Halligan family, who blame him for the incarceration of one of their own. An innocent fling with the mysterious Miranda Hart leads Loy ever deeper into the heart of a complex drama that spans decades and involves several members of the powerful Tyrrell family. At least one murder turns out not to be what it seems. Beaten up, warned off and yet undaunted, Loy uncovers a horrible series of secrets, leading to a violent and labyrinthine conclusion at a famous Irish horse-racing festival. This intelligent, often brutal thriller will have readers' hearts racing from start to finish."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"One reason for the recent increase in Irish crime fiction may be the increase in Irish crime. Another may be the successful ceasefire in Northern Ireland; the killings of the previous decades having made guns, for the duration, a lot less fun. But a boomtown loves crime fiction, especially hard-boiled crime fiction. Declan Hughes's Dublin recalls Hammett's San Francisco and Chandler's 1940s LAhot money towns in which the social wax was not yet set. What hard-boiled does best is portraying the moment a society turns respectable, or tries to; when the politicians fess up and the criminals take to property speculation as the women do to Botox. Ireland has come to it latethis myth that money makes all your sins go awaybut being Catholic, we have so many sins to play with. The Dying Breed is based in the world of horse racing, but the plot slices through the murk of adopted children and regretfully sadistic priests that Ireland has always done so well. This time, however, a new music runs through it: the lovely, clinking sound of money.
As the hero, Ed Loy, says: "Business washes us all clean. But I'm not one of the ruthless boys in a hurry, impatient to get on with the making and building and storing up wealth for the winter months. I'm one of the laggards, the stick-in-the-muds who are always looking back, endlessly worrying about some sticky little detail everyone else is too busy going forward to be bothered with."
There is quite a roll to Loy's patter, a mordant rhetorical flourish. And this is how it should be: like all PIs, he exposes the small follies and the lurid secrets of those he meets. So he is something between a priest and a tabloid hack, and he might even be annoying, were it not for the fact that all self-righteousness has been rinsed out of him by alcohol (would that this worked in real life), not to mention by regular beatings and a disastrous personal history. All the tropes of PI fiction are herethe femme fatale, the nerveless gangster, the trembling matriarchbut Hughes adds a few distinctive touches of his own. One is Loy's ruthless ability to classify the social animals that he meets, from good-hearted lowlife to the ghastly middle classes. He is very exact about where people got their money and when, and how this makes them behave and look. He notices not just the age of a woman (and he notices this a lot), but also the age of her mortgage. It is like hard-bitten gossipso timely and convivial that it might be satire, were it not for the dark, lyrical themes that stir beneath.
The other distinguishing pleasure in the series (this is the third Ed Loy book) is Tommy Owens, Loy's working-class sidekick, who is one of those natural God-given characters who walk into a writer's head and won't shut up. Hughes, who is also a playwright, has a very amiable way with dialogue. "One of those women George collects from Russia or Brazil who all look like they are waiting for the operation," says Owens, describing a criminal's girlfriend. Hughes also has considerable verve when it comes to set piece and characterisation. Jackie Tyrell, "a shrewd-looking blonde who was wearing cream and gold and the slightest hint of leopardskin", is an alcoholic who answers the phone in the middle of the night sounding "irritable and impatient, as if it was half four on a Friday and she was trying to clear her desk for the weekend". The good cop, Dave Donnelly, looked ill, "what with the high colour and the bad temper and the bursting out of his ill-assembled, badly fitting suits and anoraks", but it was "a reassuring kind of ill". The priest, Father Tyrell, twinkles beadily at Loy "with the nice combination of sympathy and malice that had kept his parish on edge for over thirty years".
It is a rich mix, and the book's conclusion owes as much to Greek tragedy as to Chandler"loy" is an Irish word for "spade", don't you know. Hughes is not afraid to take his references and run with them, he is not afraid to have a good time. Above all, he is not afraid of writing well."
Anne Enright (Booker Prize Winner 2007)The Guardian
"Declan Hughes has captured the spirit of Ireland in his series featuring private detective Ed Loy... he is a very fine writer'
Susanna Yager, Sunday Telegraph
"A deeply atmospheric writer . . . [Hughes'] keen ear for the demotic, his sharp eye for the damning detail, makes The Dying Breed a vivid, gripping, and . . . chilling read."
Claire Kilroy, Irish Times
"Mr. Hughes is a highly impressive noir newcomer."
Janet Maslin, New York Times
"Declan Hughes' detective novels truly embody the "slow and steady" aspect of reinvention. His owes a literary debt less to Hammett and Chandler than to Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer books, family melodrama disguised as P.I. fiction. Hughes, a noted Irish playwright, writes about his hometown of Dublin, where corrosive secrets and generations of lies play out with melodramatic payoff. If anything, "The Price of Blood"Hughes' third go-round with private eye Ed Loytips its narrative hat to Sophocles and other purveyors of Greek tragedy.
Of course, all the P.I. tropes are in full evidence as Loy's investigation into the underbelly of the racehorse-owning Tyrrell clan unfurls to catastrophic effect. Loy's weakness for beautiful womenthis time, the shuttered and secretive Mirandaconnects him to the case in a most personal manner. He gets beaten up and warned off the investigation and ends up being misdirected by what's actively and passively hidden, not to mention his own demons. Hughes, however, knows his turf and understands how to move his pawns across a chessboard suffused with the ill luck of the Irish."
Sarah Weinman, Los Angeles Times
"It's a measure of Hughes's command of plot and pacing and of his feel for character, tone and locale that you soon become absorbed in his narrative... Hughes shapes all this with real skill, a good deal of wit... a beady eye for local colour... and a nicely caustic line in social observation... I read the book in one day and greatly enjoyed it... Hughes is an impressive talent and deserves all the praise he's been getting..."
John Boland, Irish Independent
"This dark mystery manages to be quintessentially, unsentimentally Irishand as twisty and nasty as The Big Sleep and Chinatown... atmospheric and tough, with a lot of excellently described drinking."
"The third title in Hughes's acclaimed series of gritty Dublin thrillers featuring PI Ed Loy... Hughes's abilities to craft a "Dublin noir" crime novel and to expand the character of Ed Loy combine to make this a welcome addition to an eminently readable new series. Highly recommended."
"As crisply written as his previous books, Hughes is definitely onto another winner."
Dublin Evening Herald
"Well-written and sharp."
Irish Sunday Independent
"Rising crime star Declan Hughes turns his acerbic eye on the Irish horseracing scene in The Dying Breed, the third in his series starring caustic PI Ed Loy. Loy is always entertaining company and Hughes proves adept at depicting a claustrophobic world where grim secrets are submerged in drink and glimpsed only through a glass, and very darkly."
"The Price of Blood" is violent yet compelling. If it's Irish action you want, pick up this book and you'll be off to the races."
New Orleans Times-Picayune