“To one who starts every day with a double jolt of Starbucks’ caffeine-drenched special, the offer of a cup of tea was like offering tofu to a carnivore.”
Michael’s childhood friend Danny is thrown from his horse during a race and dies of his injuries. A rival jockey, accused of pushing Danny off, comes to Michael’s legal practice for criminal defence. Certain that something bigger is afoot, Michael takes the case, but it is his loyalties to Danny’s wife that cause him the most danger in his quest for the truth, which will take him from Boston to the heart of Ireland…
I’m in two minds about Black Diamond. On the one hand, it was a rollicking crime novel, with level after level of baddie until Michael works his way right to the top. Any number of unsavoury characters and doubling-backs of plot avert our hero from justice.
Michael is a pleasant enough character but he’s altogether too flawless (multilingual, brilliant legal mind, rose from nothing so can establish a seamless rapport with both the poorest and the rich, beautiful girlfriend who seems prepared to rescue him from pretty much anything and never see him) and generally a bit stupid – he charges headfirst into all sorts of situations for which you’d think he’s too smart.
However, and this is a big however, the writing is pretty pedestrian. Clichés abounded and the tone was, on the whole, too conversational – it might have worked brilliantly for an audiobook (particularly if the narrator was inclined to a Gaelic lilt), but it doesn’t work in print. And you can’t have an Irish character called Seamus McGuinness living in Killarney Street. It’s just too Irish. Like those huge green faux-velvet leprechaun hats worn by Guinness-chugging rugby fans. Most of the writing is a bit too Irish – I know that the point is to root the novel in a community, but EVERYONE was Irish (apart from a few Hispanic jockeys). Danny, Colleen, Erin, Mr. Devlin, Billy O’Connor… see my point?
“You could cut the profound silence with a cleaver” was the worst offence of the poor writing – the metaphor is somewhat mixed – surely pretty much anything can be cut with a cleaver; the indelicacy of the implement belies the point.
On the other hand, sometimes Dobbyn hit the right spot with a sentiment (see the tea comment at the start):
“I never lie to my secretary, except when it’s necessary to subdue her mothering instincts. This time, it took a bit of method acting. I was sure it was Scully, and no one had called him “harmless” since he left the crib.”
I wanted to give the book 8/10 for its devious mystery and Mafia-style baddies, but it loses 2 points for poor writing.