Little Criminals

Kerrigan's prose is luxury stuff, said The New Yorker when The Midnight Choir came out last year. His new novel, published in the U.S. by Europa, the champion of new crime fiction from across the pond, is certainly all that. It's also a scathing look at the moral values of the New Ireland, the so-called "Celtic Tiger" whose economy is widening the gap between rich and poor in ways that the country's shameless former British landowners couldn't imagine. Frankie Crowe heads a largely inept gang of "little criminals" who try to steal, shoot, and bludgeon their way into the good life. Crowe has ambition in plenty, but he's also a bit of a nut case, and not even his sensible older cohort Martin Paxton can keep him from screwing up. Case in point: a kidnap scheme goes wildly wrong when Crowe and his boys grab the wrong man -- a lawyer who isn't doing badly but who has no way of raising the two million quid Frankie is asking for. Everything goes downhill from there, except for Kerrigan's beautiful writing, as clear and pure as spring water. "The shooting came at the end of a period -- more than a year -- in which a lot of things didn't quite work out," he tells us after a pub holdup fails because of faulty intelligence. "By now, Frankie Crowe and Martin Paxton were supposed to be on their way somewhere. Instead, they were here in a small town in County Meath, still scrounging for the rent."

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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