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Detectives Beyond Borders: "Readers will be riveted."

Date: Mar 14 2013

Is your car engine-driven, or is it wheel- and tire-driven? Or maybe you have one of those transmission-driven models.

That's all pretty stupid, isn't it? But that's how I feel when I read about "character-driven" or "plot-driven" popular fiction, as if one is possible without the other. (I don't recall seeing any book described as "setting-driven." Instead, one reads of a given novel that "the setting is a character," often preceded by "It's a cliché to say so, but ... " Well, yes, it is a cliché.)

I thought of this when reading Gene Kerrigan's Dagger-winning novel THE RAGE this week. I suspect readers will be riveted by the police protagonist and by a murderous thug named Vincent Naylor, and even more so by the supporting character of a nun whom the former tries to save from the latter. So that makes THE RAGE character-driven.

Except that all the good characterization serves to make the suspense of the book's final portions sharper, as cop and criminal race to see who gets to the nun first, and Kerrigan's resolution is shocking and, to me at least, unexpected, so the book is plot-driven. But much of the book's drama and pathos come from moral decisions the characters make or have made. Does that make the book character-driven, or is it part of the plot?

Except that the novel is leavened with brief but effective references to hardships endured by ordinary Dubliners because of the misdeeds of the country's bankers. So the setting is a character.

Except that—Except that I should thank God that, as quickly as THE RAGE moves, I have seen no references to it as pacy.

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