Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Genre: Crime / Thriller
Approximate word count: 80-85,000 words
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Declan Burke lives in Ireland with his family. To date he has published four critically acclaimed novels. In addition Declan hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction, Crime Always Pays.
Ex-PI Harry Rigby’s life is a mess. Recently released from a psychiatric prison after killing his brother, he now drives a taxi and delivers drugs as a sideline. He’s estranged from his ex-wife and a son who may or may not be his. Events take a turn for the worse when close friend Finn Hamilton commits suicide, throwing himself from a building and almost taking Harry with him.
Now it seems everyone is after Harry. The police, led by Detective Tohill, immediately suspect Harry’s involvement, however much he protests. Finn’s mother Soairse, matriarch of a crumbling business empire, and Grainne, her daughter, both demand his help to find the truth behind Finn’s death, whilst in the background Gillick, Saoirse’s oily lawyer, manipulates everyone for his own ends. And Harry owes the gang leaders for the drugs he was carrying to Finn.
Before Harry is crushed between these powerful forces he must find out what is really going on…
Occasionally there are books that get me into trouble. Big trouble. By this I mean I spend too much time reading and not enough with the family. Slaughter’s Hound was one of these rarities – over several days I did little else other than keep my nose in my Kindle. Frankly I should have known better having been recently consumed by Mr. Burke’s excellent The Big O.
To the book itself. Slaughter’s Hound starts, literally, with a bang when Finn throws himself off a high building onto Harry’s car. Rewind in time and the story runs up towards the suicide and then beyond. Initially the pace is steady as Harry tentatively feels his way around - he’s not been a PI for a while and is reluctant to get drawn into a world he no longer wants to inhabit for people he doesn’t like.
However, in the latter half the tempo rises, Slaughter’s Hound becomes an increasingly compelling read. There’s twist after turn – more crosses and double crosses than a well-stocked graveyard.
The sense of place is powerful, Burke’s narrative style is set against the perfect backdrop of recession torn Ireland, where the wealthy rub shoulders with the criminal set – necessity born out of situation.
Then there’s Harry’s reaction to the events going on around him and how they impact on his life. He becomes increasingly violent in an eye for an eye principle. This lends a significant additional dimension to what’s already a multi-layered story and lifts Slaughter’s Hound even further above the norm.
The characters are strong enough to carry the weighty story on their shoulders with ease. However I would defy you to actually like any of them, even Harry as he wields an increasingly heavy hand in retribution.
There’s a gritty, dark humour here too. Plenty of cracking one-liners, such as:
The traffic was slower on Strandhill Road for some reason, the cars dawdling along like a fat kid early for school.
Okay it’s not quite one line, but you get my drift.
Finally, Slaughter’s Hound is quite different to The Big O in almost every respect. Both are excellent in their own right and demonstrates Mr. Burke’s writing ability.
Overall another excellent read from a highly talented author.
Graphic scenes of violence.
Rating: ***** Five Stars