Although the credit crunch is causing the odd hiccup, the city of Dublin maintains its frenzy of property development.
Walk through such areas as James Joyce’s "Nighttown", and the working girls may still be there, but cranes now loom above the narrow streets, preparing the way for wine bars, coffee shops and upscale couture houses. But Dublin’s basic identity seems to remain inviolable – and it is this struggle between the old and the new that powers some of the most provocative fiction in Ireland today. Interestingly, as Alan Glynn’s Winterland comprehensively proves, it’s crime fiction that throws up some of the most incisive evocations of this protean city.
The novel’s central character, tenacious Gina Rafferty, takes on some very powerful and dangerous people. She may have wandered in from a Martina Cole novel, but the territory here couldn’t be further from the East End, either geographically or in terms of ambition.
Despite its popular pedigree, this is something of a state-of-the-nation novel. From the violent opening in a Dublin pub (the dialogue here has an authentic snap, maintained throughout), Glynn keeps his narrative exuberant and fleet-footed. A young drug dealer, Noel Rafferty, is shot in a beer garden, and the police are happy to file it under gangland killings. But on the same evening, Rafferty’s uncle also loses his life in a suspicious car accident. Coincidence or conspiracy?
Gina isn’t buying the official explanation of either death, and undertakes some amateur detective work. She quickly realises she is up against some influential opponents: movers and shakers in a world of crooked property deals and corrupt political influence. She discovers that her brother (the Rafferty who died in the car crash) was involved with the construction of a massive skyscraper, and with a property developer, Paddy Norton, whose ambition is to transform Dublin into something like downtown Chicago. The real crimes in Glynn’s provocative and richly textured novel are not necessarily the killings, but the unfettered exercise of greed and political self-interest.
Winterland by Alan Glynn is published by Faber