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DEAD MEN WHISTLING
by Graham Masterton
Head of Zeus, Ltd., April 2018
416 pages
$36.95 CAD
ISBN: 1784976431


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Masterton's ninth volume of his Katie Maguire series is so gruesome that some of its scenes still keep me awake at night. Don't say I did not warn you.

Dramatis personae: Katie Maguire, Detective, Cork Garda, sometimes jumps headlong into dangerous situations; Conor, her significant other who wants to pop the question, and whose day job is investigating animal abuse, which, in his part of Ireland, is dogfighting; Katie's Da, retired Garda, who has invested badly and lost his nest egg; Guzz Eye McManus, a Traveller who runs the dogfighting business in Tipperary, and Conor's target; Jimmy ” FaolŠin, highroller, dealmaker, found dead in compromising circumstances; Viona, his current wrap, who is not nearly sad enough; Seamus Twomey, a sleazy and heartless bully who will do anything for money; Michael ” Doibhilin, undercover cop attempting to infiltrate Twomey's operation; Gwenith, Twomey's disgusting sister whose thirst for blood and sex may be the real driving force behind Twomey's business; crooked cops, straight cops, brave people, cowards, those who are filled with fellow feeling, and those who lack all feeling.

There are multiple plots formed around multiple crimes, deftly juggled by Masterton.

One: Guzz Eye McManus, a Traveller who does not travel, runs a permanent dog-fighting ring outside the city of Cork. Guzz Eye, to warn off Conor, whose job is to stop animal abuse, has kidnapped and tortured Katie's Irish Setter. Conor carries out plans to shut down Guzz Eye's business, but his plans may not be entirely lawful. Katie is torn between her love for her lover and her love for the law.

Two, Jimmy ” FaolŠin, an investment advisor and dealmaker, is dead in his mansion, killed by a very accurate shooter. The shooter knew what he was about, getting in and out without leaving any evidence. How he got in is a mystery. The evidence points to inside help. One possibility is Viona, Jimmy's current flame, who seems to be more worried about her diamond jewelry than her dead partner. Katie uses forensic accounting to narrow the field of suspects.

Three, the central crime figure is Seamus Twomey, a drug smuggler who, with his group of thugs, also moonlights as a hired killer. Twomey uses crooked Garda to accompany shipments of drugs through customs agents. Handsome payoffs buy the silence of the law. Unfortunately, some of the Garda have turned in the names of their crooked brethren. These Garda, one by one, are kidnapped and tortured to death. Michael, a young and honorable Garda, attempts to infiltrate Twomey's business. To test him, Twomey sends him to his sister Gwenith's home to service her many sexual needs. When Michael overlooks an important detail, his cover is blown, and he is kidnapped. The race is on to rescue Michael and the still-living whistleblowers, before they are killed.

Katie's father, a proud retired Garda, has lost his money in an investment scheme; now he must sell the home where Katie grew up. Katie begins to wonder how he lost his money, and how she can help a proud man used to running his own life. As a Garda and party to information about the commission of crimes, she begins to find evidence about who defrauded her father.

As, one by one, whistleblowers are picked off, as Michael's situation becomes more dangerous, the novel becomes a page-turner. Masterton portrays an Ireland that is not green, and is not where the Irish gather in comradery in bars to sing or dance the night away, where there are best wishes made on shamrocks and little people who are mischievous but not vicious. This is the country of noir. My only complaint with DEAD MEN WHISTLING is that Masterton has so carefully counted the pages between the scenes of sexual congress that it does not seem like sex, but rather oil exploration.

ß Dr. C. Downs, Professor of English at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, teaches American literature and is a fan of the well-turned whodunit.

Reviewed by Cathy Downs, May 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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