The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Blurb On The Back:

Maureen didn’t mean to kill a man, but what can a poor dear do when she’s surprised by an intruder and has only a holy stone to hand?  Lucky that she’s just reconnected with her estranged son Jimmy because, as the most feared gangster in Cork, he certainly has the tools to sort out the mess.

So Jimmy enlists his boyhood buddy Tony who, with six kids and a love of the bottle, could certainly do with the money, even if his teenage son, Ryan, is far too keen to grow up so he can become a gangster himself.  And all is going to plan until Georgie, the girlfriend of the hapless intruder, starts to wonder where he went …

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

When 59-year-old Maureen kills a burglar with a holy stone, she knows exactly who to call to sort it out for her.  Her son, Jimmy Phelan, is the biggest gangster in Cork.  Maureen was forced to give him up shortly after birth but they recently reconnected after he came looking for her in London and insisted on bringing her back to Ireland.  Jimmy enlists his old friend, Tony (an alcoholic widower with 6 kids), to dispose of the body and everything seems to be fine right up until the burglar’s girlfriend, Georgie, starts to ask questions about where he’s gone …

Lisa McInerney’s multi-award winning debut novel is a smart, intricately plotted novel that marries a black comedy crime caper with a coming of age story while also commenting on the state of Ireland, written in a crackling voice that makes excellent use of Irish slang to add authenticity and which kept me engaged from beginning to end.  The main story belongs to Ryan and the pull he feels between life as a drug dealer, love for his girlfriend Karine and the tantalising possibility of life as a musician – I believed in him and his emotional journey, for all the melodrama with Karine (who is a little bland).  Relationships are at the heart of the book and my favourite scenes were those between Jimmy and Maureen (easily my favourite character as her actions become darker and deranged as she seeks revenge on the suffocating Ireland she grew up in) but I also came to feel some sympathy for Tony who does want to protect his son, even if he can’t express those feelings and frequently gives in to addiction.  Tara Duane makes a sinister antagonist whose manipulation of Ryan, Tony and Georgie (who for me never really rose above her role as a prostitute and drug addict) drives the plot at key sections.  I loved the way McInerney peppers the dialogue with slang because it makes the whole thing so authentic and even though I didn’t immediately get all of it, the context means you can understand it.  I don’t think that McInerney had anything new or original to say about Ireland or the influence of Catholicism on Irish society but it was entertaining and heart felt and I can fully understand why it won both the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Desmond Elliot Prize in 2016.

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