This post is not an attempt of mine to review this suspense novel--it's been done better by bloggers like Corey and others. However, since this novel was so well written I have to put something down here. The characters and situations McKinty wove are still rolling around in my head something fierce. I'm holding off starting another audiobook because I have to get this down in words. First, I especially enjoyed the author's use of contrasting cultures and ethnicity in this novel. I'm a sucker for contrast whether in visual graphic design, the color combinations I gravitate to, or through the imaginative writings of a gifted writer. The fact that Mr. McKinty is of Irish heritage and wrote such a mesmerizing novel involving the immigrant population (that reaps much of today's conservative scorn) does not surprise me.
I've always thought the Irish and the Mexicans had a great deal in common, including their religion, grand expression through language and emotion, and their common background of living through a society's contempt for being a feared migrant group on U.S. soil. And the combination of Irish-Mexican-American is not unheard of. Ask Martin Sheen. Mr. McKinty examines cultural identity so very well here in the pages he's written. Adding to this, his use of a female Cuban police detective as the revengeful protagonist, and outside observer of our practices and missteps, is key and really drives home the narrative. Again, it's just a wonderful use of contrast. Add to this what James Lee Burke, Michael Koryta, and others recognize, paraphrasing in my words: crime fiction is now the vehicle (and an entertaining one at that) for examining the society we live in through the actions of those on the out of it. The author and his book performed this beautifully. Definitely, this will not be last Adrian McKinty work I'll read.
And since I took in this novel in through my format of choice, the audiobook, I have to speak to that, too. Blackstone Audio's production of Fifty Grand was particularly well done, especially in who the studio managers choose for the story's narration. Paula Christensen turned out to be a perfect choice--I'm in great company on this since the author seemed to confirm this in a post last month. Too often, audiobook publishers seem to pick narrators based upon name, reputation, or availability without giving more weight for the language needs (foreign or domestic) a book's audio form may require. And Mr. McKinty's novel, with its wonderful use of English and the sprinkling of Spanish, demanded it. Because I care a good deal about this, I have my maternal grandmother to thank for giving me my Spanish ear. Though English has always been my primary language, I had to speak to my grandmother using only Spanish (she must have loved me since she could put up with that).
Since her passing over 25 years ago, I just about never use it anymore. But I still understand most of it still when I hear it--and can recognize whether it's a Mexican, Central American, or Cuban speaking it by their dialects. Listening to any audiobook where the reader butchers the pronunciation of the spanish words in a book heavy with them just grates on me (as Mark Bowen did with his narration of Killing Pablo). The bilingual Argentinian actress, Ms. Christensen, gave an extraordinary performance in narrating this novel. She moved effortlessly between the English and Spanish words, and the various characters of different ethnicity that the author breathed life into. And, she absolutely nails the spanish curse words! You can tell I very much appreciate that ;-). I'll forever associate her with the character of Detective Mercado. Hers was one of best performances I've listened to in the past few years. Luckily for me (and other audiobook listeners), it was a great pairing for a great novel. Thank you's to Adrian McKinty and Corey Wilde.