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In this explosive debut thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water, a brilliant homicide detective returns home, where she confronts a city’s dark demons and her own past while pursuing a brutal serial killer on a vengeful rampage.
Absalom “Abbie” Kearney grew up an outsider in her own hometown. Even being the adopted daughter of a revered cop couldn’t keep Abbie’s troubled past from making her a misfit in the working-class Irish American enclave of South Buffalo. And now, despite a Harvard degree and a police detective’s badge, she still struggles to earn the respect and trust of those she’s sworn to protect. But all that may change, once the killing starts.
When Jimmy Ryan’s mangled corpse is found in a local church basement, this sadistic sacrilege sends a bone-deep chill through the winter-whipped city. It also seems to send a message—one that Abbie believes only the fiercely secretive citizens of the neighborhood known as “the County” understand. But in a town ruled by an old-world code of silence and secrecy, her search for answers is stonewalled at every turn, even by fellow cops. Only when Abbie finds a lead at the Gaelic Club, where war stories, gossip, and confidences flow as freely as the drink, do tongues begin to wag—with desperate warnings and dire threats. And when the killer’s mysterious calling card appears on her own doorstep, the hunt takes a shocking twist into her own family’s past. As the grisly murders and grim revelations multiply, Abbie wages a chilling battle of wits with a maniac who sees into her soul, and she swears to expose the County’s hidden history—one bloody body at a time.
With Black Irish, Stephen Talty stakes a place beside Jo Nesbø, John Sandford, and Tana French on the cutting edge of psychological crime thrillers.
Praise for Black Irish
“Abbie Kearney is one of the most intriguing new suspense protagonists in memory, and Black Irish marks the captivating start of a brilliant thriller series.”
“Detective Absalom Kearny of the Buffalo (NY) PD is caring for her aged, adoptive father, John, a legendary, former detective himself. Smart and driven, Abbie is seen by fellow cops as a rising star. But she may be too driven, and the savage torture-murder of Jimmy Ryan, a resident of the city’s clannish Irish enclave, ‘the County,’ drives her toward obsession. More grisly murders occur, and even though Abbie grew up in the County, no one will talk with her, even though many know what is happening; the County avenges its own. Talty, author of several lauded nonfiction books (Agent Garbo, 2012), has produced a suspenseful debut novel with a circuitous plot. Abbie is a wonderfully complex and conflicted character, but it is the County—which may exist in Buffalo and certainly exists in other northeastern cities—that shines brightest. It’s a place where a boy whose people came from Mayo isn’t allowed to date a Kilkenny girl, and its residents share an ‘ancestral memory of being oppressed in a country they’d never been to.’ Economically ravaged Buffalo is portrayed in broader brushstrokes, but the sense of place is palpably evocative. Black Irish is simply a riveting read.”
“Talty’s first foray into crime fiction, a memorable story of betrayal and vengeance, centers on a working-class Irish enclave in contemporary Buffalo, N.Y. The macabre killing of gas-meter reader Jimmy Ryan brings Det. Absalom “Abbie” Kearney to South Buffalo (aka “the County,” as in the 27th county of Ireland), where ‘ancestry was everything.’ As the adopted daughter of legendary cop John Kearney, Abbie is both an insider and an outsider. More gruesome, carefully staged deaths occur, pointing to members of the secretive, powerful Clan na Gael as targets. Hampered by community distrust, Abbie must dig deeply into long-buried secrets that could endanger her father’s life and reputation as well as her own life. Talty (Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day) does a fine job portraying the cohesiveness of the Irish, their loyalty to one another, and their obsession with their history.”