Ireland holds a special place in the realm of fiction. Not only is it the birthplace of literary notables from Bram Stoker to Colm Tóibín, the country’s famous natural beauty and fascinating, sometimes violent history makes it the perfect backdrop for works of crime fiction. Authors of all stripes have been taking inspiration from Ireland’s physical and intellectual attributes for years, and there is still plenty of material left to cover!
The six Irish crime fiction books spotlighted here are sometimes haunting, sometimes violent, but always engrossing. Their characters are often unsavory yet strangely compelling in their quest for justice, peace, redemption, or all three. Some of the books are set at various points in Ireland’s past, while others tell tales of disturbing modern crimes. For books that combine unforgettable characters, incomparable scenery, incisive political commentary, and nail-biting suspense, these examples of Irish crime noir just can’t be beaten.
During the Troubles, when Northern Ireland was besieged by political violence and terrorism, Gerry Fegan murdered a dozen people. He didn't think much about it at the time: he was hired to do a job, and he did it. But now, plagued by guilt that not even alcohol can drown, Fegan comes to a decision. He will make things right. He will avenge those dozen deaths by killing his former employers, even if he has to threaten Ireland's fragile peace to do it. The Ghosts of Belfast is an award-winning work of Irish noir that brings home the true horrors of the Troubles.
Stuart Neville; John Connolly (Foreword by)
Written by Stuart Neville, who also authored The Ghosts of Belfast, The Traveller and Other Stories is a collection that incorporates many genres, including suspense and speculative fiction. All of the stories deal with Ireland's dark side through the eyes of a wide variety of characters. For fans of Neville's previous work, some of those characters will look very familiar. But even if you have never read Neville before, these complex, intriguing works are sure to satisfy your need for distinctly Irish crime fiction.
Joe Swallow, an inspector with the Dublin Metropolitan Police, is confronted with a particularly grisly case: an unknown individual is targeting and brutalizing women. Who is behind these gruesome attacks, and what is their motive? Can Swallow solve the case without sacrificing his newfound romance with his landlady? Deftly weaving in contemporary politics, A Hunt in Winter is part of Conor Brady's "A Joe Swallow Mystery" series of historical Irish crime books set in the late Victorian era.
Cal Hooper is searching for one thing and one thing only: a quiet, out-of-the-way spot to retire after his decades of service with the Chicago Police Department and the dissolution of his marriage. He thinks he has found that spot in a small Irish village, well away from anything and anybody. Hooper's peaceful retirement comes to an abrupt, possibly permanent end when a young local boy asks him to find his missing brother. The Searcher is Tana French's acclaimed novel about how the smallest communities harbor the biggest secrets.
Related: Where to Start With Tana French
There is an IRA bomber on the loose, and Detective Sean Duffy has been assigned to find him. First, however, he must solve the bizarre murder of a young woman killed in a locked pub. Then, and only then, will the woman's grieving mother tell Duffy what she knows about the bomber. Part of Adrian McKinty's "Sean Duffy" series about the Troubles, In the Morning I'll Be Gone is a gripping thriller that features interlocking mysteries, unexpected twists, and a spine-tingling race against time.
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Eileen Gonzalez is a freelance writer from Connecticut. She has a Master’s degree in communications and years of experience writing about pop culture. She contributes to Book Riot and Foreword Reviews, and she occasionally tweets at @eileen2thestars.