Today I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Games With The Dead, the third Donal Lynch novel from James Nally. Thanks to Sabah Khan of Avon Books for inviting me to be a part of the tour. I have an extract from the book, plus my thoughts to share with you in just a moment after we’ve taken a look at what the book is all about.
The Official Book Blurb
Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.
Life is about to get complicated for DC Donal Lynch.
When a young woman is kidnapped, Donal is brought in to deliver the ransom money. But the tightly-planned drop off goes wrong, Julie Draper is discovered dead, and Donal finds his job on the line – a scapegoat for the officers in charge.
But when Donal is delivered a cryptic message in the night, he learns that Julie was killed long before the botched rescue mission. As he digs further into the murder in a bid to clear his own name, dark revelations make one thing certain: the police are chasing the wrong man, and the killer has far more blood on his hands than they could even imagine.
A gripping, brutal and addictive thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin and James Oswald.
Games With The Dead
I rush to thirty, shut the boot and hotfoot into the station foyer. To my left, I spot the metallic-blue Mercury public phone he’s selected for our cosy chat. It’s framed by a glass hood, open at the front, New York-style. I wonder why he’s selected such an exposed phone, and hover there twitchily, head scoping in case of ambush. Through the frosted glass of a nearby waiting room, a frowning man peers out. Kidnapper or cop? Who can tell? Opposite me, two scruffy men in their twenties loiter outside the ticket office. One of them clocks my clipboard and approaches. I stiffen.
‘Are you doing a survey?’ he asks brightly.
‘No, I’m waiting for a phone call.’
He raises his arm. I flinch. Calmly, he reaches past me, lifts the receiver, checks for a dialling tone and replaces it. ‘Well it’s working,’ he says chirpily and returns to his pal. Kidnapper? Undercover cop? Mercury Communications telephone angel? Who knows.
A thunderous rumble grows inside the station. I step out from my glass arch to see an army of knackered, dead-eyed commuters march up a walkway towards me, looking set to sack the city. As they storm the ticket barriers, I scan their addled, timetable-enslaved faces.
Ready for anything and everything . . .
He could be one of them, ready to pluck the bag from my grasp and sprint to a getaway car.
No one stops. No one even looks. All hopes of a swift exchange evaporate.
I sag and step back, my back raging hot against the phone’s cold metal. The money bag’s strap burns a timely reminder into my left shoulder blade; I’m standing here alone with everything he wants. What if he’s watching me, planning to pounce? Who would save me?
Poor, poor, poor old Donal. As if life isn’t complicated enough at home, a father with links to the IRA, a brother who is a journalist with questionable ethics and a partner who is less than enthusiastic about their relationship, in Games With The Dead he find himself being made patsy in what could well be an almost impossible rescue mission. Faced with the task of completing the ransom drop for missing estate agent Julie Draper, things go horribly wrong resulting in both the suspect and the money disappearing. When he later gets a visit from Julie in his dreams, he knows the case can only go one way…
What I love about this series is the way in which it blends a touch of the unnatural, almost supernatural in fact, with a good old police procedural. While Donal may use rather unorthodox means in which to uncover the bodies of various victims, it is his tenacity and old fashioned detection which usually leads our hapless and put upon Detective to catch his man. And there is a lot a stake for Donal this time. His life for one thing. There are those who would rather see him dead than see him find the truth. This adds a wonderful layer of tension to a rather twisted mystery.
I do like the character of Donal. He is such a sweetie in an occasionally drunk, worried about his health but too stubborn to get it checked kind of way. He loves his stepson Matt, even if his relationship with Zoe may be going down the toilet, and would do anything to protect his family unit. He is most certainly tested in that respect this time around. Part of you wants him to find happiness, another part knows that he can do better. If he stops drinking long enough.
His relationship with his brother is very complicated and yet comical too. They are exact opposites and yet they compliment each other perfectly. Where Donal is cautious and sincere, Fintan is outrageous and occasionally underhand. Between them though they do make a formidable pair and I don’t think I could imagine one without the other. Donal has another ally in this book, in the shape of pathologist Edwina Milne. It’s an odd friendship but one which works, and for Donal, who has very few people on his side, an important one too.
This isn’t the fastest paced story and being set in the early nineties, lacks all of the forensic wizardry you find in a modern era detective novel. For me the story is all the richer for it and the setting fits the idea of Donal dealing with something a little more atypical than straight forward intuition. It pulls in all of the key political events of the day, especially seeing as how Donal’s family has links to the IRA, the book being set in the most fragile times in the negotiation of peace. And there are other nods to true events to with the abduction and another mentioned in the book having shades of the Susy Lamplugh case. There are also comic remarks about phone tapping, common practice in the day, and the way in which information gleaned this way could and would be used by the media.
There is a clear thread of humour throughout the story, as many moments that will make you smile as set you on edge. It’s a very complicated case, much more than a kidnapping gone wrong. And there are moments of real tension, scenes in which Donal’s life is under threat, but from whom or what remains to be seen. Much of the humour comes from Donal’s hapless nature or Fintan’s irreverent attitude to pretty much everything. The fate suffered by the poor car belonging to one of Fintan’s colleagues certainly made me smile. And the ending… Well that epilogue is the cause of a good old chuckle for sure. Very fitting.
Whether Donal comes good, you’ll have to read for yourself. But I do recommend that you give it a whirl, especially if you like your detective fiction mixed with a little otherworldliness. I love these books.
Games With the Dead is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
James Nally was a journalist for 15 years, before leaving to become a producer and director of TV and film. This is his first novel, and is based on his experiences of his years writing about the murder victims of London.
Picture courtesy of Harper Collins Website
You can follow James Nally on Twitter
Make sure to check out some of the other blogs taking part in the tour.