‘This city, like all cities, hates its natives. It would rather be in a constant state of replenishment than own up to what it has warped. Ryan sees it well enough: the tribes in town, hipster baristas and skinny suits and the tides of students pushing the rest of them back up the hills.’
Let me start by saying that I was a huge fan of Lisa McInerney’s debut The Glorious Heresies. Back in 2015, this book grabbed everyone’s attention and took the literary world by storm. The following year saw awarding of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliott Prize add to the furore of a remarkable debut. To say that I came to The Blood Miracles with high expectations is an understatement.
And here is where we get to the problem with expectations… You start a book expecting more of the same and then you become disorientated when you discover that the author has other plans for you! As I began reading The Blood Miracles, it quickly became evident that McInerney had not written an easy by-the-numbers sequel to piggyback on to her previous success. Instead, she took her dark world in a slightly different direction and changed the perspective. You have to admire her greatly for this. The end result is both a satisfying sequel (which is important for her loyal readers) and a fantastic book capable of standing alone in it’s own right.
The Blood Miracles sees us climb deep inside the head of 20-year-old tearaway Ryan Cusack, ‘the assemblage of seven years of wrongdoings.‘ Whereas in her previous novel, the reader was treated to multiple narratives, this time we get the story of Cork’s cutthroat underworld solely from Ryan’s perspective. Yes, the devoted fan will keen for the quirky characters of old, but rest assured that these favourites do appear all in good time.
In the meantime, we discover that Ryan is not in a good place mentally at all. A couple of half-baked suicide attempts have left him in limbo. His long term girlfriend Karine is fed up of his moods, his dad Tony is a broken man and his boss Dan Kane is relentless in both his own personal ambitions and his dark designs for Ryan. All Ryan wants to do at times is ‘remove his head, place it on a shelf, throw a towel over it.’ But unfortunately there are no moments of peace and lurking all the while in the background is the malevolent shadow of crime kingpin J.P. Phelan.
From this starting point, McInerney’s weaves a deliciously intricate tale of misfortune remnant of Henry Hill’s busy day in Goodfellas. Poor Ryan cannot seem to catch a break and the walls seem to be closing in on him whichever direction he turns.
Once again, McInerney amazes with her swift turn of phrase and use of the vernacular. The sprinklings of Cork city slang add real flavour to this story and also give it a chilling authenticity. With rumours of a third and final instalment to this story, as well as the option of a TV series, I have a strong feeling that this will not be the last time that we hear from Ireland’s ‘Rebel County.’
Would I recommend this book to a friend?
Yes. This is a real slow burning crime novel that tightens the screw of the plot the more that you read. This will result in a couple of late nights reading as you endeavour to see how it all ends. Another excellent book from an emerging author at the top of her game. I look forward to seeing where her next novel goes.