“An absorbing, beautifully written tale.”—The Times
A sophisticated crime story of contemporary Ireland, The Midnight Choir teems with moral dilemmas and Dublin emerges as a city of ambiguity: a newly-scrubbed face hiding a criminal culture of terrible variety. Small-time criminals have become millionaire businessmen, the poor are still struggling to survive, and the police face a world where the old rules no longer apply. “Believe me, you want The Midnight Choir with you on holiday,” says The Sunday Business Post. “This is the kind of book you pass on to someone you like, and say ‘read this.’”
|Publisher:||Europa Editions, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.29(w) x 8.23(h) x 1.12(d)|
About the Author
Gene Kerrigan is a Dublin writer. He has been a journalist for over thirty years, Journalist of the Year in 1985 and 1990, and is the author of Another Country, This Great Little Nation (with Pat Brennan), Never Make a Promise You Can't Break: How to Succeed in Irish Politics, and the novel, Little Criminals.
Read an Excerpt
It was just gone noon when Garda Joe Mills got out of the patrol car on Porter Street, looked up and saw the jumper sitting on the edge of the pub roof, his legs dangling over the side. Garda Declan Dockery was still behind the wheel, confirming to radio control that this was a live one. Looking up past the soles of the jumper's shoes, to the pale, bored face, Joe Mills was hoping the fool would get on with it.
If you're gonna jump, do it now.
Thing about people like that, they don't much care who they take with them. Mills had once worked with a garda named Walsh, from Carlow, who used to be stationed in Dublin. Went into the Liffey after a would-be suicide and the guy took him under, arms around his neck. Would have killed him if Walsh hadn't grabbed his balls until he'd let go.
The jumper was just sitting there, two storeys above the street, staring straight ahead. He looked maybe forty, give or take. The sleeveless top showing off his shoulders. Bulky but not fat. He paid no heed to the arrival of the police or the attention of anyone below. To the left of the pub there was a bookie's, and a motor accessories shop to the right and beyond that a branch of a building society, all with a trickle of customers. Passers-by slowed and some stopped. An audience was building. As Mills watched, several pre-lunch drinkers came out of the pub to see what was going on. Two of them were still clutching their pints.
Mills waited for Dockery to finish talking into the radio. He wasn't going up on that roof alone.
Thing like this, edge of the roof, all it takes is he grabs hold of you at the last moment, your arm, maybe, or the front of your jacket — and your balance is gone. You reach for a handhold and you're too far out and all you get to do is scream on the way down.
You want to jump, go ahead. Leave me out of it.
A man in his fifties, pudgy, balding and pouting, buttonholed Garda Mills. "I want him off there, right? And I want him arrested, O.K.?"
"And you are?"
"The manager. I want him dealt with. That kind of thing — this is a respectable pub, right?" Mills saw that the jumper was shifting around. Maybe his arse was itchy, maybe he was working on a decision.
"Oh, I dunno," Mills said. "Thing like this, you could have a lot of people dropping around to see where it happened. Tourists, like. Can't be bad for business."
The manager looked at Mills, like he was considering if there might be something in that.
"I want him shifted, right?"
Dockery was standing at Mills's shoulder. "Ambulance on the way. They're looking for a shrink who can make it here pronto. Meantime —"
Mills was thinking, traffic in this town, by the time a shrink gets here it'll all be over.
One way or the other.
Dockery was looking at the assembled gawkers. "I reckon the most important thing is we cordon off down here. We don't want him coming down on top of someone."
Mills nodded. That sounded like the sensible thing to do. Best of all, it was ground-level work. Dockery was already moving towards the onlookers when one of the drinkers said, "Oh, no."
Mills looked up. The jumper was standing.
Mills said, "We can't wait for the shrink."
Dockery said, "Wait a minute — there's —"
Mills was moving towards the door of the pub. He took the manager by the elbow. "How do I get up there?"
"Joe —" Dockery was making an awkward gesture, caught between following Mills and moving the gawkers out of harm's way.
The manager, grumbling all the way, took Mills up to the top floor, where a storeroom led to an exit onto the roof.
Mills was trying to remember a lecture he'd attended a couple of years back. How to approach a possible suicide.
The roof was flat tarmac, with razor-wire barriers jutting out at a forty-five-degree angle on each side. The storeroom took up a quarter of the roof space at the back and there was a two-foot-high parapet at the front. Near the centre of the roof a green plastic garden chair lay on its side, next to a stack of broken window boxes and a couple of empty old Guinness crates. At the front of the building the jumper was standing on the parapet, arms down by his sides. Mills moved towards him at an angle, stepping sideways, keeping his distance. He wasn't going close enough to be pulled over, and he didn't want to startle the man.
From up here, the jumper looked like he was in his early thirties. Denim jeans, trainers and the dark blue sleeveless top. Well built, serious shoulders and biceps that didn't come from casual exercise.
Weights, probably steroids too.
What to say?
Mills couldn't remember much from the lecture, but he knew that there was no point arguing with a jumper. Logic didn't work. Whatever it was had got him out here it'd be so big in his mind that there wouldn't be room in there for reasoning.
Get him talking. Draw him out. Make a connection. That's a start.
Maybe ask him if he's got kids?
Could be domestic.
Mention kids and I might step on something that stokes him up.
It was mid-April and Mills could feel the winter overhang in the breeze.
Down there, touch of spring. Notice the wind up here.
"Cold out here. In that top."
The jumper stared straight ahead.
"You a regular in this pub?" Nothing.
Should have asked the manager.
"You want to tell me your name?"
"Don't know about you, but I'm nervous up here."
Mills was trying to remember something that the lecturer had said. About how, more often than not, the subject is using the threat of suicide as a cry for help. Offer a way out, show them that you care.
O.K., fella, I hear you.
Point made. Help on the way. Quit while you're ahead.
Say hello to the men in white coats and they'll give you all the little pills in the world and by tomorrow you won't remember what was bothering you.
Or what planet you're on.
The jumper turned his head just enough so that he was looking Garda Joe Mills in the eye.
The man's blank icy stare was unmistakable evidence that this was no cry for help.
There's something mad in there.
The jumper held Joe Mills's gaze as he turned completely around until his back was to the street and he was facing the garda.
His arms still down by his sides, his heels an inch from the edge of the parapet, his expression vacant, the jumper stared at Joe Mills.
Now, he falls backwards, staring at me until he goes out of sight and the next thing I hear is the gawkers screaming and then the wet crunching sound that I'll be hearing in nightmares for years to come.
"Look, fella. Whatever it is — I mean, what you need to think about, give it time —"
Arguing — he can't —
The jumper stepped lightly off the parapet onto the roof. He stood there, chin up, his bulky tensed arms several inches out from his sides. After a few seconds he flexed his jaw in a way that made the tendons in his neck stand out. Then he took an audible breath and began to walk past Garda Mills. He was moving towards the storeroom and the door down from the roof.
"Hey, hold on —"
Mills reached out to grab an arm and the man threw a punch. Mills felt like his nose had taken a thump from a hammer. The jumper was turning sideways, instinctively positioning himself to block a return blow, but through the pain Mills was very deliberately suppressing his own urge to lash back. He was already ducking to the left, one hand snapping onto the jumper's right wrist, then he was twisting the man's hand and moving around him, keeping the arm taut, twisting it and pushing and the jumper made a Hwwaawwh! sound and Mills was standing behind him. The man was bent forward ninety degrees, immobilised by Mills's grip on his hand and his rigid arm.
Mills hooked a foot around the man's leg so that when he pushed the jumper forward he tripped and went down, his arm held rigid all the way. The anguished sound the prisoner made seemed to come in equal measure from the pain and from the realisation that he had no control over what was happening.
Mills could hear footsteps behind him and then Dockery was reaching down and seconds later the man was cuffed, belly down on the roof.
Mills felt the elation rush from somewhere in his chest, spreading out right to the tips of his fingers, blanking out even the pain in his nose.
Every move totally ace.
If Dockery hadn't been there, Mills might have given a whoop.
He wants to go off a roof, there's always tomorrow, and to hell with him, but for now —
Mills took a deep breath and Dockery said, "Jesus, look at that." He was pointing down at the man's cuffed hands.
Mills could see dark reddish-black stains on both hands, across the palms, in between the fingers. The dried blood was caked thick around the man's fingernails.
Dockery turned the prisoner over. There were darker stains on the dark blue top. There were also dark streaks down near the bottom of his jeans. The man lay there, quiet, like the fight had drained out of him in that short frantic struggle.
Dockery was looking at Mills. "He's not hurt?"
Mills shook his head. "Can't be his blood. And it's not recent."
That much blood — someone was carrying a hell of a wound.
Mills looked at his own hands, where he'd gripped the nutcase. He saw a smear that might have come from the stains on the man's hand. He rubbed his hand on his trouser leg.
He bent and looked at the man's trainers. There were dark reddish marks ingrained in the pattern of the sole of one of them.
Might be, or maybe not.
Mills knelt, levered off both the man's shoes and held them by the laces.
Dockery said, "What's your name?"
The man ignored the question. Lying on his back, cold eyes watching Joe Mills straighten up, there was a twist to one side of his mouth as though his face couldn't decide whether to scowl or smirk.
They got him to his feet and hustled him towards the roof doorway, from which the pub manager was emerging. As they went past, the manager poked a finger at the prisoner. "You're barred, you are. You hear me? Barred."CHAPTER 2
On the way out to the Hapgood place Detective Garda Rose Cheney pointed out the house that had sold for eight million. "Around here, the houses go for — what — pushing a million, and that's for your basic nothing special. One and three-quarters if they have a view of the sea, three if they back onto the beach. Any size on them at all and you're into four or five mil."
Detective Inspector Harry Synnott wanted to tell her that he didn't much care about Dublin property prices, but this was the second time he'd worked with Garda Cheney and she was a bit of a yapper. If it wasn't property prices it'd be something else.
Cheney steered around a gradual bend and slowed down. "That's it on the left, third one in from the end."
It was a tall handsome house, glimpsed through a curtain of trees. Victorian? Georgian, maybe — Harry Synnott didn't know one period from another. Anything old that looked like a bit of thought had gone into it he reckoned was probably Victorian. Or Georgian. If not Edwardian.
Rose Cheney snickered. "Couple of rich men got a hard-on for the same sea view. Nice aspect, mind you. Worth maybe three million, tops. Not that I'd pay that for it. Even if I had three million. But the way the market is, I mean, place like that'd run to three million, there or thereabouts. But you know how it is, bulls in heat, and the bidding went up to eight-three before one of them threw his hat at it."
Synnott wasn't sure what a nice aspect was, but it was apparently worth a rake of money. One minute the country hasn't an arse in its trousers, next minute the millionaires are scrapping over who gets to pay over the odds for a nice aspect. There were some who claimed the prosperity was down to EU handouts, others said it had more to do with Yank investment. There was a widely proclaimed belief among the business classes that they'd discovered within themselves some long-hidden spark of entrepreneurial genius. Whatever it was, the country had been a decade in love with its own prosperity and everyone agreed that even though the boom years were over there was no going back.
We might, Synnott thought, be card-carrying members of the new global order, but we're still committing the same old crimes. The working day had started for Synnott when he met Detective Garda Rose Cheney at the Sexual Assault Unit of the Rotunda Hospital.
Cheney had already interviewed the alleged victim and was waiting outside her room while a nurse did whatever it is nurses do when they usher visitors from a hospital room.
"Name is Teresa Hunt. Just turned twenty, doing Arts at Trinity. Family's from Dalkey, she has a flat in town. The doctor confirms she had recent intercourse, swabbed for sperm, so we might get something. She's not physically damaged, apart from minor bruising around her arms and thighs."
"Who's the man?"
Cheney opened her notebook. "Alleged assailant, Max Hapgood. They were an item sometime last year, met again at a party a couple of weeks back. He called her a few days ago. Had a date last evening, ended up back at her flat, and you know how that one goes."
Synnott shrugged. "It'll be a she-says-he-says. How'd she strike you?"
"See what you think yourself."
Teresa Hunt turned out to be a thin, wispy young woman who looked Synnott in the eye and said, "I want that bastard arrested."
Synnott's nod might have meant anything.
"You had a date," Cheney said.
"I told you."
"Tell the Inspector."
The woman looked slightly resentful that telling her story once hadn't set the seal on the matter. She turned to Synnott. "We had a date."
"We had a meal, a drink. It was good to see him again. I assumed maybe he was having second thoughts, you know." She made a small dismissive gesture with one hand, like she was brushing away threads of illusion.
"You and he have a history."
"It didn't last long — it was no big deal."
Synnott heard something in her tone — perhaps it was a bigger deal for Teresa Hunt than she wanted to remember.
Cheney said, "The relationship was sexual?"
Teresa nodded. "We saw each other on and off, with other people — it's a small scene — but it tapered off. Then, when he rang, I assumed —"
Synnott sat back, let Cheney ask the questions. She did so gently but without skirting anything. There was no sign of the yapper now, just a capable police officer ticking off the boxes. Age of the alleged assailant? About the same as that of the alleged victim. He too was a TCD student. Business studies. Where it happened — in the woman's flat, on the floor of the living room. What time — between eleven and midnight. Yes, she asked him in for a coffee. Yes, there was affection, just a kiss or two. Yes, she consented to that. No, she didn't agree to have sex. Not in words, gestures or actions. Cheney took her through all the signals that meant one thing but might have seemed to mean another.
"It wasn't that kind of evening. It was hello-again, and that was that. I was happy to leave it that way. Then it was like he'd gone through all the right motions and it was time for the pay-off. He pushed me down —"
Again, Cheney methodically took Teresa through the moves that might have been taken for a signal of some kind. No, she'd just had a couple of drinks. Same for him, two pints. Yes, she had made it clear that she was saying no. Yes, she'd said the word. Again and again. Yes, she'd struggled. No, he hadn't threatened to assault her.
"I scratched him, his face, but he just laughed. He's tall, strong." Quietly, with a twist of the lips. "Rugby type."
"Afterwards, what happened?"
"It was like, he was just normal, smiling, trying to make conversation."
"I went into my bedroom. Then he left, called in through the door, said goodbye."
"This was about, what —"
"We got home, I don't know, maybe midnight, I wasn't keeping track. He didn't stay long."
"His car, yours?"
A couple of questions later, Teresa went silent, her eyes and lips compressed. When it came, her voice was a hiss. "He — just — I was nothing. Like it was something he wanted to prove he could get away with." She wiped her eyes with the back of one hand.
Cheney said to Harry Synnott, "I'll make the call." They'd need Hapgood's address, and they'd have to request a preliminary check to see if he had a record.
Synnott shook his head. "I'll do it. You stay with Teresa."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Midnight Choir"
Copyright © 2006 Gene Kerrigan.
Excerpted by permission of Europa Editions.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The first Kerrigan book I have read. Very fast, easy read. More of a noir police procedural than a hard boiled detective story. Very gritty, no Hollywood ending here. Explores the moral effect of constant contact with squalor and depravity. It kind of reminds me of "Heart of Darkness" - Joseph Conrad's hero being turned into a savage by his contact with savages. Except Kerrigan is more sensitive to the blindness in Conrad's proposition - the exchange is not one way.
Crime fiction as literature, exceptionally well-written with crisp, clear prose.
This is a good book about cops and robbers in Ireland, mostly one detective and one of his informants. None of the characters is a hero. They all have their human flaws. Most of the story is about the cops going through their routine investigations. There is some humor in the story and an exciting episode about a jewelry store heist, but the overall story is kind of bleak.