I am often out of step with Awards judging panels but in the case of those who selected THE RAGE to win the Gold Dagger for best crime novel in 2012 I am in complete agreement. It’s a cracking read.
Set in contemporary Dublin it is at its core the story of two men both battling internal demons. Vincent Naylor is newly out of jail and has begun planning a large-scale robbery. As a professional thief he is philosophical about his chances of returning to prison at some point, but seems quite determined to keep a lid on the behavioural excesses that led to his first sentence after severely beating a young man. Bob Tidy is a long-serving Garda struggling to maintain his integrity in a world in which the distinction between right and wrong is not nearly as obvious as it ought to be. He becomes involved in a current investigation into a murdered banker because, unlikely as it seems, the gun used in the crime was apparently used in the case of a low-grade hoodlum’s death that Tidy investigated but couldn’t close. He is also contacted by an old acquaintance who notices something odd in the street she lives on. Eventually the disparate elements of this novel collide but, probably, not in the ways you’d expect.
One of the delights of the novel was knowing very little about what was going to happen and watching it play out in all its complexity. You think having so many threads in play can only result in chaos but Kerrigan resolves everything with delightful precision. It’s like watching a beautifully choreographed ballet via those wide-angle overhead cameras they have in newer theatres: your heart’s in your throat the whole time but when everyone is taking their final bows you’re equal parts relieved and exhilarated.
The backdrop to these machinations is modern Ireland a place of economic collapse and enormous social upheaval. Many people in all walks of life are still dealing with the fallout of the Ryan Report which resulted from the Commission of Inquiry into child abuse and the days of the Celtic Tiger striding the world stage are well and truly over. According to one local philosopher
After all the bullshit about the fight for freedom, about throwing off the foreign yoke – they gave the country away. The politicians fell in love with the smart fellas – gave them any law they wanted. The smart fellas made speeches and gave interviews about how smart they were, and the journalists kissed their arses. And, in the end, it was the smart fellas broke the country in pieces, without any help at all from the red brigades.
It isn’t only the two main characters of the novel who live in the giant grey chasm that exists between black and white, right and wrong. Even someone as seemingly inoffensive as the elderly nun who contacts Bog Tidy about the strange thing she noticed in her street lives in a world of torment. For this reason the characters in THE RAGE are hard to like but they’re equally hard to forget. Some of Kerrigan’s observations made me personally uncomfortable as I reflected on my easy judgement of people who do the wrong thing but I won’t hold it against him.
THE RAGE has so many of the elements I think necessary for great crime fiction. A fast-paced, brilliantly complex story, characters that keep you awake at night and a glimpse into a distant, tension-filled world. It is, in its way, quite profound and I know it’s a book I’ll be thinking of for a long time to come.
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I plucked THE RAGE from my teetering TBR pile because I noticed it’s going to be featured in Margot Kinberg’s excellent In The Spotlight series this month. If you aren’t already you really should be a regular visitor to Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, one of the web’s most insightful and exhaustive crime fiction resources.
I’ve read another of Kerrigan’s novels, also excellent – THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR
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Publisher Vintage Digital 
Length 304 pages
Format eBook (mobi for kindle)
Book Series standalone
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