Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Drowned Detective by Neil Jordan

The first fifty pages of this mystery were perfectly composed to trap the reader with its sense of menace and uncertainty. The tight construction and lack of explanation forces the reader to contemplate coincidence, involving us completely in the drama unfolding. A private investigator living in an unnamed Eastern European country is trained to look for inconsistencies and clues wherever he looks, and when he discovers a man’s cufflink in his wife’s handbag, the lives in his circle of family and colleagues are thrown into disarray.

There is far more to the story, including a parents’ search for a girl gone missing years ago and who, in an old photograph, is the same age as the detective’s daughter. Petra. That is her name. The daughter. Whose daughter?

Jordan draws us deep into the complex turnings of a mind under duress, circling back time and again to images and memories that haunt the subconscious. It is a fabulous examination of how the mind rids itself of a terror that it cannot examine directly. Supernatural elements are introduced, but somehow they seem perfectly at home with what is happening on the streets and in the opera houses of this European city on the edge of civil implosion and external invasion.

Neil Jordan’s work has been memorable since his first collection of stories, Night in Tunisia, won the 1979 Guardian Fiction Prize. Most everyone will remember his film, The Crying Game, which won an Academy Award and a BAFTA. His other work has been likewise critically acclaimed. Published this year by Bloomsbury, Jordan’s latest detective novel puts the genre to shame by the intensity of its writing and the closely written examination of a marriage under pressure. The language makes it cinematic, atmospheric, and painfully realistic.

This is a short novel, though the language makes one want to pause. Writers anxious to see a master at work could do worse than read this for what it shows about brevity. One doesn’t need more words to get one’s point across. One needs what this man has.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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