Having been rather taken with Alone With The Dead by James Nally, introducing us to the hapless DC Donal Lynch, I was more than happy to join in the fun of a blog tour for the second book Dance With The Dead, but would the Raven’s black heart be gladdened again?
Aspiring actress Elizabeth Smart lands her centre stage role: her mutilated body is found dumped in North London’s red light district. Clasped in her hand is a piece of human hair belonging to an unidentified body of a woman murdered two weeks ago. Aspiring actress Elizabeth Smart lands her centre stage role: her mutilated body is found dumped in North London’s red light district. Clasped in her hand is a piece of human hair belonging to an unidentified body of a woman murdered two weeks ago.PC Donal lands himself a place on the murder squad just as his unconventional brother, journalist Finton, unearths the secret double life of Elizabeth. The bodies mount, each clinging to the strands of hair belonging to the previous victim. The police are convinced it’s the act of a serial killer. But how does Donal convince them it’s not? The only people he can trust are the victims he dances with in his dreams…
It is incredibly satisfying to review a second book in a series that is the equal, if not slightly better than the first. As much as I enjoyed Alone With The Dead, Nally has absolutely nailed it with this outing for Donal and Finton Lynch, and lovely to see the re-appearance of the duplicitious Shep, a senior police officer that treads a very fine line between honesty, and well, dishonesty. From the outset Nally captures the marked differences between siblings Donal and Fintan, and yet the natural repartee, gentle joshing, and loyalty that they have to each other lies at the very core of their relationship. Donal is still a good-natured virginal alcoholic experiencing strange visitations from murder victims, and desperate to escape his banishment to the- excuse the pun- funereal confines of the Cold Case Unit. Eager to inveigle himself in a proper murder investigation, and aided by the rumbustious and completely unscrupulous Fintan, Donal gets the chance, but not without some added complications. Donal is a wonderfully empathetic character, with his bumbling gaucheness, undeniable intuition and as Nally reveals more of his knotty relationship with his father who pops up in this one, any reader could not help developing a certain affection for him. Fintan is equally likeable, exhibiting all the subtlety and charm you would expect of a scurrilous journalist, but deep down- deep, deep, down- has a certain nobility to his character, particularly in relation to his fierce defence and support of Donal, not always for his own benefit. In fact, Nally’s characterisation outside of his main protagonists, is spot on with an assorted cast list of prostitutes, erotic dancers, gangsters, hard men, not so hard men, a flirty forensics officer, and dodgy coppers, and his lightness of touch with the characterisation plays wonderfully well against what is a really quite disturbing investigation.
The plot is terrific, with its pinpoint playing out against a setting of the early 1990’s, which Nally consistently and at times just subtly keeps the reader’s awareness of the period, with cultural, social and political references. With the tentative first steps in the Irish peace process in the background, and proving incredibly relevant to a strand of the story involving Donal’s family, this is a gritty, and at times, perfectly gruesome investigation. Nally introduces some intriguing vignettes concerning forensic detection, and a very novel way of disposing of a corpse, in addition to constructing a seedy, sordid, and dark tale of betrayal and murder. I thought the control of plot was much stronger in this book, and the different emotional, and professional situations, that Donal was manipulated and changed by during the course of this exceptionally bleak murder case. The darker details of Donal’s search for a sadistic murderer is tempered by his positively ham-fisted attempts in matters of the heart, and delighted that, once again, the whole book contains a plethora of sharp one-liners, and flippant jokes that lightens the story along the way ( the Bullitt/Driving Miss Daisy line was a favourite). Kudos for making the Raven guffaw again. Yep, I liked this one very much. Recommended.
(With thanks to Avon for the ARC)