Crime novels can be travel guides to a sense of place, a way to experience both the familiar and the unfamiliar through a grimy lens that just happens to rack its focus from the gutter. A city like Dublin, Ireland, trapped forever by its storied past yet thriving in its “Celtic Tiger” present of urban renewal and technology, is an ideal matte painting upon which to splatter a little blood.
The Price of Blood is Declan Hughes’ third novel in a series featuring private detective Ed Loy, returned from years abroad in noir capital Los Angeles to find a Dublin in identity crisis. The series has improved with each book, the plots tighter and the recurring characters familiar enough to make you smile, yet flawed enough to make you wince. All of Hughes’ plots borrow in spirit from American mystery writer Ross MacDonald and detail the sins of the fathers being visited upon the sons. In a city as colorful as Dublin, those sins are legion.
With backdrops of the Leopardstown Racecourse Christmas Festival, a storied horse-breeding family, and continuing contemporary revelations of clerical abuses, The Price of Blood is a densely plotted and carefully layered page-turner. Ed Loy is a dogged and believably self-destructive P.I. coming out of a personal free-fall, and the many families caught in this complex story each has something to hide, producing an intricate daisy chain of deceit and dishonor.
Hughes, an award-winning playwright, spins his complex plot with a vast subterranean network of character motivations, and makes it all add up with zest. He is far less concerned with the whodunit, procedural aspects of the genre and far more inclined to the whys and wherefores, elevating this book into the more literary realm of the genre, and one well worth considering.