Christopher Owens has finished a book that grabbed him where it hurts.
Titles are meant to grab you by the balls, and this one does.
An ominous title that seemingly invokes The Waste Land. The imagery is stark: a serene summer day with trees and the rest of nature in full boom, with an endless procession of corpses cluttering up the river.
The follow up novel to the acclaimed To Keep a Bird Singing this sees our intrepid ex-punk turned private investigator Noelie and his surviving crew sit down and do some serious detective work on what they have just experienced, and the horrendous repercussions that they have.
Unlike To Keep ... this is a much slower tale in pace (with most of the action happening towards the end) and is much more about the digging that needs to be done in order to uncover the truth in a complex case like this.
Something that is often glossed over in most crime books of this ilk, and the decision to focus on this angle is an inspired one as, throughout the tale, the reader has the sensation of being alongside Noelie, Medbh and Black Gary as they trace leads, speculate and generally muse about what they have encountered as if still in a state of shock.
As mentioned in my previous review, Noelie is such a character. Although well intended, part of me feels that his impulsive nature (obviously fuelled by events over the two books) is both endearing and exasperating. So having this be the flaw (so to speak) of the main protagonist makes him much more relatable to the reader and seeing him stumble bull-headed into situations where a clear mind would not venture makes for compelling reading.
Cork itself plays much more of a role in this tale. Much more than just a setting, it's a place that harbours secrets. Open green lands contain human remains. Churches have seen abuse on an industrial scale. The Garda are far removed from the Sergeant Hodgins stereotype. And, as the city's youth attempts to repeal the eighth, the shiny facade slips all too often.
Bring on part three.
Kevin Doyle, 2019, A River of Bodies. The Blackstaff Press ISBN-13: 978-1780732336
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland.