WINTERLAND is a brilliant book. A young man is shot in the beer garden of a Dublin pub. His mother Catherine is devastated but most of his family are privately unsurprised, as the victim is a known drug dealer and petty criminal. Gathered at the family's house to support her are Catherine's brother and three sisters, one of them, Gina, much younger than the rest. Gina works for an IT start-up company teetering on the brink of going bust in the collapsed dream of the Irish Tiger economy. Gina chats to her brother, who is 20 years older than her. She feels she does not know him well because of the age gap, but has always liked him and heard many family anecdotes about him while she was growing up. He tells her he has to go and pick up some papers but will be back soon.
I won't write more about the plot as I would not want to spoil any part of this wonderful book for anyone who has not read it. Gina's journey is compelling, and her personality a long way from any stock character of the genre that I've come across. She's brave, tenacious, and portrayed with quite remarkable subtlety.
Another character is Mark Griffin, a young man who imports Italian ceramics. He's a sad person, and as the plot deepens, we slowly find out why. The small, domestic revelations about Mark and his journey of self-discovery are perfectly paced, gathering momentum and force, becoming increasingly shocking and out of control as the events going on elsewhere in the novel escalate.
The shady businessmen, gangsters, politicians and victims portrayed in this book are so well done: one never feels that one is reading a cliche, as each person reacts in unpredictable ways to the new and old truths that are gradually uncovered on a factual level by Gina and an emotional one by Mark (the two characters barely meet but are firmly bonded). There are just so many things to like about this book, which is exciting, gripping and perfectly structured as well as having great emotional depth and insight. If you only read one book for the rest of the year, make it this one.
Review first publshed at Euro Crime, July 2010.