City of Bohane

Kevin Barry, Author
Kevin Barry. Graywolf, $25 (288p) ISBN 978-1-55597-608-8
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Barry’s debut novel, a near-future noir, takes readers on a walking tour of Bohane, an apocalyptic fictional city on Ireland’s west coast. One of its seedier precincts, the Back Trace, is ruled by underworld boss Logan Hartnett of the Hartnett Fancy gang, who governs like an Irish Don Corleone. But the graying Hartnett finds his power threatened when his rival, the Gant Broderick, returns after a 25-year absence. Hartnett also has to cope with an upstart gang, the Cusacks, that wants to take over the Trace. To make matters worse, his wife, Macu, who is also the Gant’s former lover, wants him to give up the life. And finally, tough Fancy girl Jenni Ching, a “saucy little ticket” with a “pack of feral teenage sluts at her beck ’n’ call in the Bohane Trace,” may be playing both ends against the middle. How Hartnett handles these various crises forms the dramatic core, but with so many literary influences running through it, the novel reads as if China Miéville and Irvine Welsh had collaborated to update Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest. Although this sort of future-shock noir is nothing new and the elliptical narrative peters out before it reaches its inconclusive climax, the author succeeds with a continual barrage of hybrid language reminiscent of Anthony Burgess at his A Clockwork Orange best. (Mar.)
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