A brutal Dublin crime world is on view in Gene Kerrigan's gritty and compulsively readable THE RAGE, the fourth novel by a veteran journalist whose fiction shows old evils taking new forms in a disintegrating economy. "We have our lowlife gangsters," says a veteran police officer, "scams and hold-ups, smuggling, drugs, sex trade, and protection rackets, all the mucky stuff. And we have our highlife gangsters—who do their thieving through layers of companies, hidden bank accounts, bribes, forgeries and offshore cut-outs. . . . If some business-school gangsters have begun calling in gunmen instead of lawyers—no one knows where that kind of thing leads."
One place it leads is to a rash of assaults against financiers thought responsible for the recent property-market financial crisis—culminating in the execution-style killing, in his own home, of one of the city's dodgier bankers. Citizens seem to be getting the notion, one top cop fears, that "it's open season on wealthy scumbags."
Another place it leads is to an elaborately planned bank heist that draws on inside knowledge of a cash truck's pickup schedule and involves kidnapping a company employee and holding his family hostage. The scheme is precise in every detail, but can the sociopaths in charge avoid having it all end in bloody disaster?
Making his way through all this scheming and mayhem as best he can is Detective Sergeant Bob Tidey, who became a policeman out of youthful idealism: "When trouble happens, most people turn and run. It's the people who run towards the trouble—medics, firefighters, the police—they're the ones I wanted to be with." In the here and now, Tidey acknowledges that "he'd long let go of the illusion that he was making the world a better place." Still: "It was the effort that mattered."
The detective's efforts eventually focus on a thug named Vincent Naylor, fresh out of prison and eager to hijack the bank's cash truck. It's "all business from here on," the often "emotional" Naylor vows. "He'd play it smart." But the hood's vicious temper is never far from the surface, nor his self-righteous "logic" about letting it loose. "If you were in my place," he tells someone he is about to shoot, "you know it's what makes sense."
The doings of cops and crooks are shown in alternating scenes that flash past with cinematic speed. Thanks to Mr. Kerrigan's sharp lens, fleeting figures stand out in sharp relief: an aggressive reporter, "a little guy with a suit and over-gelled hair," and "someone who took a lot of time polishing his appearance, but wasn't very good at it." There is a thin, small gun salesman with "the intense expression of someone in a permanent hurry"; a low-level mobster whose "sculpted hair and vacant expression gave him the air of a fifth-rate singer from a failed pop band, his mouth half open, ever ready to explain how he never got the breaks."
Most fascinating of all is Tidey himself, caught between the rock of the past and the present's hard place ("There was no right thing to do. But something had to be done") and forced to admit: "I'm not who I set out to be—not any longer."