cover image The Judas Kiss

The Judas Kiss

David Butler. New Island (Dufour, dist.), $25.95 trade paper (292p) ISBN 978-1-84840-168-6

Irish author Butler’s grim, violent second novel (after The Last European) follows an unstable 15-year-old as he flees a Dublin orphanage to live on the streets. A vulnerable aging pedophile, Malcolm Little, takes the boy in and falls irredeemably in love with him. Little, totally beguiled by the boy’s “brazen blue eyes,” names him “Bluebottle.” Not realizing quite how disturbed Bluebottle really is, Little nearly loses his life when the adolescent’s explosive temper gets out of hand. After the two part ways, Bluebottle runs afoul of one of Dublin’s more sadistic thugs, who gives him a disfiguring facial scar. Eventually Bluebottle is arrested for the murder of a vagrant—but is he really guilty? Several darkly comic characters share narrative duty in this affecting, tightly controlled story that’s never dull: Fergal Bates, a sardonic and venal journalist; Gwen Furlong, a mean-spirited “Sapphic sculptress”; and Brother Martin, the orphanage librarian who never loses faith in Bluebottle. (May)