If you happen to be a fan of crime fiction, you simply must read THE RAGE by Gene Kerrigan. I say that because for various reasons that aren’t really pertinent here, this fine novel and wonderful author might get past you. There are many worthy books and relatively little time to read them, even as many of them jostle to the front of the line demanding readers’ attention. THE RAGE certainly deserves yours.
I had never read anything by Kerrigan before, but I will certainly rectify that deficiency now. THE RAGE proceeds on twin plot tracks, one concerning crime and the other dealing with police procedure. The setting is modern Dublin, which is still dealing with the collapse of the world financial market; the shadows cast by that disaster are present, silently and otherwise, over the course of the book. The police plot is primarily concerned with Bob Tidey, a quietly likable detective sergeant with the Dublin garda. Tidey is in a minor spot of trouble, created with the best of intentions; it is dealt with easily enough at the outset but comes back to haunt him a bit later. It does not prevent him from being assigned to investigate the shooting death of a wealthy and unprincipled Dublin banker. Given the state of the economy, the case doesn’t lack for suspects, as the man had several enemies both within and without his class. Ballistics, however, match an unsolved murder of a lowlife criminal. Tidey finds it strange that the death of a member of society’s dregs should be tied to a similar one involving the so-called upper crust.
Meanwhile, a low-rent criminal named Vincent Naylor has just been released from prison after serving time for a violent assault, and seems set to pick up where he left off. Vincent and his brother, Noah, are partners in crime, and while Vincent finds some short-term contentment in keeping his hand in illegal matters with some strong armed robbery and petty theft, he aspires to greater things. The brothers plot and execute a heist that will leave them set for life, or something close to it, if it is successful. Naturally, things go wrong, and, in the end, Vincent is on the run and seeking revenge on everyone and everything that crossed him and his brother. This unwittingly places him on somewhat of a collision course with Tidey, who has a bit of a mad-on of his own, given that his investigation has been compromised by the powers that be. By the end, no one is going to walk away entirely whole, neither physically nor emotionally.
There is much to love here. Tidey is an extremely sympathetic character, smart and determined to unearth the truth and ethical enough to doubt himself when he is more or less forced to bend the rules. Vincent is a chilling character, an unpredictable loose cannon on a slippery deck, yet fiercely loyal to his brother, which is returned in spades. Interestingly enough, Vincent has a chance at redemption through a somewhat unlikely but nonetheless totally believable love interest who is a lifebuoy in the rough sea that Vincent has created for himself. You know he’s going to swim away from it, but still you hope he’ll grab the opportunity and ride peacefully (more or less) into the sunset.
While THE RAGE may be a stand-alone work, Kerrigan leaves enough threads dangling at its conclusion that the characters who survive to the end could easily return for another go-around. Let’s hope they do.