Black Irish: A Novel

Black Irish: A Novel

by Stephan Talty

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345538871
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/26/2013
Series: Abbie Kearney , #1
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 205,387
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Stephan Talty is the author of the New York Times bestseller Empire of Blue Water, as well as Escape from the Land of Snows, The Illustrious Dead, and Mulatto America. Black Irish is his first novel.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Detective Absalom Kearney took the exit for the Skyway and the Ford nosed upward, climbing with the gray asphalt. Lake Erie was frozen over far below and to her right; to her left, Buffalo’s industrial waterfront slept as quiet and still as an oil painting. The factory smokestacks rode past, even with her windshield, but not a smudge of smoke drifted up from them. The waterfront was dead, slumbering for the past three decades. When Absalom used to ride along this part of the highway with her father twenty years before, she’d sometimes hear the smokestacks keen as the storm winds hit them.

She rolled down the window. The smokestacks were silent. The squall hadn’t peaked yet.

The crest of the road was ahead, only slate-­colored sky beyond. Three stories up, the Skyway was a ribbon of concrete spilled across the clouds. The wind shook the car with a guttering rattle. Abbie gripped the wheel harder.

She felt the fear grow inside her again, blooming like a growing rose in a sped-­up film. She took the Skyway every time she had to go to South Buffalo instead of driving down the 90, where the highway hugged the earth all the way to the exit at Seneca Street, by the junkyard that seemed to hold the same hundred wrecked cars she’d seen there as a child. Abbie told herself she took the road above the lake because she wanted to face the thing that terrified her. Which was what, exactly?

White tendrils of snow skimmed ahead of her Ford Crown Vic, pushed by the wind. The front edge of the storm was blowing in, spinning a spiderweb of frozen lace on the asphalt. Her eyes followed them as the road rose. Endlessly intricate patterns, hypnotic to watch them form and break, form and break.

There were no cars up ahead, not a single red brake light in the tall, rippling curtains of snow. The empty highway made her think that if she moved the wheel just two inches to the right she would put the car into the railing. A lull, the bang of ice, and then water. Lake Erie in January was a freezing tomb. Death in fifteen minutes. She’d looked it up, whether to calm herself or scare herself she had no idea.

She could almost hear the snow crystals scour the asphalt. They made a rough, hissing sound that grated on your eardrums. It was like the shushing of a dogsled heading into blankness, disappearing into the advancing storm . . .

Abbie leaned and turned up the radio, which the last detective had tuned to a country station and which she hadn’t bothered to change. She found the University of Buffalo station playing some obscure eighties synth music.

When she told her partner Z about how odd she felt driving Buffalo highways, he’d asked her why. She’d brushed it off then, but now she knew. It’s the emptiness. The enormous emptiness. Or the loneliness, that was it, the feeling of being alone in a place that should be filled with other people, cars full of families headed to the super­market, to the restaurant on the lake, to the hockey game. Buffalo had built miles of highways during the boom years, enough for a million people. The people that were going to come but didn’t. Why not? Where’d they disappear to? What happened to them?

Now the gray roads splayed across the city, empty half the time. The local joke was the only way Buffalo would get a rush hour was if Toronto got hit by a nuclear bomb and panicked Canadians came pouring south. You could drive for twenty minutes at a time at three on a weekday afternoon and not see another car pass you. The highway system was a network of veins laid across a dead heart.

But she couldn’t talk about those things, because eyes were already on her. She’d only been in Buffalo PD for a year. At thirty-­one, she was already on her second police job. If she messed this up like she did Miami . . .

The radio crackled. “Detective Kearney, this is Dispatch. McDonough wants to know your ETA.”

A missing persons case in the County. Must be a family with some connection to the Department, because the missing guy had only been gone since Monday. Just two days. And the officer on scene had called in to check on Abbie’s progress, making the family think their missing son or daughter was a priority. Usually, they would just ask the family if Danny or Maura preferred crystal meth or alcohol.

She kept her eyes on the yellow line as she reached to pick up the handset. The radio was mounted far enough away to give legroom for a bigger person—­that is, one of the sprawling six-­foot men that the Department seemed to breed, not the average-­sized Abbie. Finally, she hooked the cord with a French-­polished fingernail and brought the handset up.

“Kearney to Dispatch,” she said in a husky voice. “Twenty minutes.”


She descended down the back slope of the Skyway, the lake ­coming up on her right and then the raggedy little marina where her father had liked to fish in the spring. Next to it were the hulking grain elevators, massive concrete silos that, like all the old mills down along the waterfront, had been empty for decades. It used to be that ships filled with golden wheat from the West would come steaming into the harbor and unload their haul. The West grew it, and Buffalo milled it. Now the companies were bankrupt and kids with Irish pug noses and no concept of mortality fell to their deaths after breaking the silo locks and climbing up the inside on the rusty maintenance ladders. There wasn’t that much else to do in the County on a Saturday night.

There’d been one just last week, a seventeen-­year-­old boy named Fenore who’d wanted to impress his porky girlfriend, who they found crying hysterically at the foot of the silo. Abbie had done one recovery and that was enough. The insides of the things smelled like rancid beer, and at the bottom, always the broken bodies.

Abbie had begun to think of them as sarcophagi, twenty-­story vertical tombs facing out to the lake like some kind of postindustrial pyramids, the bones of the young inside. The whole city was entombed by the artifacts of its glory days.

She jumped off at Tifft Street, grinding the front wheels into a left turn, and shot off through the nature preserve.

Coming to South Buffalo was coming home, she guessed. But a little half-­Irish girl from outside the neighborhood could never have been at home here, even if she’d been adopted and raised by a legendary Irish cop, the great and terrible John Kearney. Certainly not a girl with an unknown father, who’d given her a shock of midnight-­black hair, what they called Black Irish in the County. And if that wasn’t enough, Harvard grads like Abbie were regarded as nothing less than two-­headed aliens.

They called South Buffalo the Twenty-­Seventh County, or the County for short, a patch of Ireland in the wilds of America. Blacks need not apply; strangers, be on your way; and faggot, can you outrun a bullet? Back in high school, her neighbors the Sheehans hadn’t even let that poor redheaded kid John Connell come on their porch to pick up their daughter Moira for the freshman dance. Not because he was Italian or German or, God forbid, Puerto Rican, not because he was too poor or addicted to alcohol or sexually suspect or pockmarked by acne. No. It turned out his family was from the wrong part of Ireland, Abbie’s friends patiently explained to her afterward. The Connells were from Mayo and the Sheehans were pure Kilkenny. “D’ya get it now? He’s the wrong county; the Sheehans won’t have a Mayo boy on their doorstep.” Their faces shiny with concern, emphatic that she should understand the intricacies of Irish-­American dating.

“Yep,” she’d told them. “I get it now.”

Inside, she’d thought, Looks like I can forget about getting a date in high school. And she’d been right. Her raven-­black hair, which was only accentuated by her pale skin and sky-­blue eyes, her long-­dead drug-­addicted mother, and her unknown father had doomed her to a life as an outsider in the County, where ancestry was everything. She remembered the moment as the beginning of her disastrous romantic history, and probably her sharp tongue, too.

That had been in the nineties. Things were different now, people said. There were even a few blacks and Latinos sprinkled among the County’s population, though you never seemed to see them walking the streets. Maybe they carpooled for safety and conversation.

But some parts of the neighborhood never changed. The clannish logic. The hostility to outsiders. The secret, ancient warmth. The alcoholism.

As her partner, Z, said whenever someone from this part of the city did something completely inexplicable or self-­destructive: “WATC.”

“We are the County.”

No other explanation necessary. Or possible.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Advance 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.”—Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of Last to Die
“A memorable story of betrayal and vengeance.”—Publishers Weekly
And the work of Stephan Talty
“A ripping yarn.”—Dallas Morning News, on Empire of Blue Water
“A swashbuckling adventure . . . [The] characters leap to life.”—The New York Times Book Review, on Empire of Blue Water
“A pleasure to read.”—Entertainment Weekly, on Empire of Blue Water
“Elegantly crafted.”—The Wall Street Journal, on Agent Garbo
“A true-life spy thriller with about as much intrigue and excitement as you’d find in a le Carré novel.”—Booklist, on Agent Garbo
“Riveting . . . a great read.”—Kirkus Reviews, on Escape from the Land of Snows

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Black Irish: A Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 61 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This 290 page, free book is unique. It has an unusual plot. The editing is 95% correct, which is nice. There is some rather tame sex, quite a few curse words, there are a few mentions of religion. The murders are extremely violent with lots of very graphic detail. This author can make the reader envision the murder scenes as if he/she were standing there, watching the carnage occur. The details of a death in a park horrified me. It was terrible and realistic. There is animal multulation, child abuse in its many forms, corrupt officals and kidnapping. I enjoyed this book very much. It kept me guessing to the end. The main character is a Irish, female detective, she has a strong persona, yet is feminine. This novel is a murder mystery. It is not a romance, although there are relationships. Men and women, who love intense, noir, murder mysteries will enjoy this novel. It is one of the better books, I have read this year. Be warned though, the violence really is graphic. For adults. AD
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read. Suspensful until the end. Well wrtten and a must for Buffalonians!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
without giving away much of the story, I liked this novel quite a bit. It was entertaining without being overdone with excessive, verbose language. The killer is in no way possible to figure out until the end, which is good, because the individual who the investigation is leading to, is too obvious. Not to say my taste are similar to anyone else, but this was an entertaining novel.
Clancy More than 1 year ago
Great plot with many twists.
ABookAWeekES More than 1 year ago
The sanctity of a local Buffalo, NY church is forever compromised when the maimed corpse of Jimmy Ryan is discovered in the basement. Tied to a chair, eyelids cut off as if he were made to look at something, the sight of Ryan's body sends a shock through the town. Author Stephan Talty describes the southern part of Buffalo, the County,  as having a "small-town feeling". Its best days behind it, the County is a place where news travels fast and nothing stays secret for long. Enter Absolam "Abbie" Kearny. Despite growing up in the County, she has always been a kind of outsider. Adopted at a young age by John Kearny, a local police legend, she has now returned to follow in her father's infamous footsteps. Tasked with the Ryan case, she is quickly met with resistance from the local townspeople and police. The County is mostly made up of Irish immigrants. As Abbie digs deeper into the murder, connections, both historical and personal, begin to reveal themselves. As further murders occur, Abbie struggles to stay ahead of the killer. The Buffalo police run an investigation parallel to hers, and Abbie soon finds herself a suspect in the case. As the tension rises Abbie is forced to question her sanity and family history, all culminating in a shocking twist that is sure to leave readers riveted. With his debut work of fiction, Stephan Talty instantly places himself among the great modern thriller authors such as Dennis Lehane and Tana French. Like Lehane and French, Talty manages to maintain exceptional characters, setting and suspense without ever sacrificing the integrity of his writing. This novel could have easily become a standard thriller, but Talty daftly takes his time to build each character, allowing the suspense to stay at a constant boil. In Abbie, Talty has imagined a believable protagonist, whose flaws and vulnerability allows readers to connect with her emotions and desire to succeed. I was hooked on this novel from beginning to end. Fascinated by the serial killer who tells, "his autobiography through corpses", I was shocked at the final turn that the events took. This exceptional novel has everything thriller fans have come to expect and gives them more than they could ever have hoped for.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was skeptical to purchase this book, but could not put it down once I begun reading it. Great mystery novel, the killer is a complete surprise until the last chapter. Looking forward to more from this author.
born2b1 More than 1 year ago
Absolutely one of the most 'real' mysteries I have read. There is no single 'super' hero, but the author gave great personalities to all the players, giving them life and believability. I actually liked the characters. The love interest between two of the main characters. The entire book was a great read and I immediately began searching for Mr. Talty's other books. OK Barnes & Noble, where are they? hmm?
cmscdn More than 1 year ago
This is a great debut novel. I hope he writes more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Look forward to more!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fascinating story that takes place in an american cultural microcosm cloaked in a veil of secrecy.  A good psychological  thriller that  appears to have been carefully researched in order to provide an historical  framework that adds depth  to  the story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just when you think the mystery has been solved, it takes another turn. I will definitely give this author another read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Much to convoluted!!!! What a waste of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Compelling characters and settings. Very well written . I hope there's a sequel but it also doesn't need one. Everything is nicely wrapped up at the end.
DLDFL More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this novel very much. a good story with true Irish ideas of the old country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From a south buffalo native I can tell you the details are amazing. The story is super suspenseful. I really enjoyed it and can't wait to read the next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Topic of story boring.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started to read this 3 years ago, but couldn't get interested...glad I tried again. Very good...recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Was better than I expected
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great debut novel After a career as a journalist and writer of nonfiction, this is Stephan Talty's debut novel and what an intriguing story this is. He introduces us to a specific community and a cast of characters that feel real. Talty paints a detailed picture which depicts an insular community within a city struggling to find its footing after the heyday of its industrial past. In addition to the murders and the ongoing investigation, we are treated to descriptive passages that paint a larger picture and set the mood. An additional layer of the narrative is the introduction of Det. Absalom "Ab, don't call her Abbie" Kearney who is also finding her footing in the PD after returning to Buffalo. Although she was raised here by a legendary cop, she was never fully part of the life in the County. I am calling this an elegantly gritty story: the details of the murders are graphic but do not feel gratuitous; the main characters are complex; and the language has an elegant but no-nonsense style. I usually stay away from this type of book, because I have found that it's just an excuse for a lot of bad language and poor grammar. I really like Talty's writing style and will have to circle back to read some of the biographies he has previously written
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago