March was a busy month—so much so that I didn’t have the chance to recognize Irish mystery authors and narrators in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. But it’s never too late, as there is such a rich audiobook list to delve into. The range of genres includes political thrillers, domestic suspense, police procedurals, historical crime, and hard-boiled detective. And with audiobooks, listeners also have the joy of being seduced into the stories by wonderful Irish accents. Irish crime fiction is fearless in tackling the psychological impacts of alcoholism, drug addiction, family abuse, adultery and betrayal, making for deeply engaging and troubling listening.
Top of mind for me is Liz Nugent’s LITTLE CRUELTIES, read by a cast of talented narrators including Sam O'Mahony, Stephen Hogan, Paul Hickey, Dermot Crowley, and Mary-Lou McCarthy. The story unfolds through the Drumm brothers each sharing their perspectives on events over their lifetimes. The title refers to the ways in which brothers and parents inflict damage in small and big ways on those they supposedly love. It is a dark and engaging story, and having a different narrator for each of the main characters certainly enhances the listening experience. The tale also provides insights into modern Ireland that benefited from the economic boom of the Celtic Tiger and the bust that followed. As with Nugent’s other audiobooks, the stories slowly lead the listener down a very dark path.
Going further down a dark path is TURNCOAT by Anthony J. Quinn, read by Adam Best. There are many good reasons why they call the approximately 30 years from the late 1960s to the late 1990s “The Troubles.” This was a very dark, violent time, and in this audiobook, Detective Desmond Maguire finds himself in deep trouble as the sole survivor of an ambush on his team. The audiobook draws listeners in and has them continually wondering who to believe. This is an intense and disturbing listening experience.
Moving to today’s Ireland, listeners will appreciate Tana French’s THE SEARCHER, read by Roger Clark. The story involves a former Chicago cop, Cal Hooper, escaping to a bucolic Irish village after a shattering divorce. Hooper soon discovers that all is not as it seems in this quaint village. Clark’s American-Irish-British background allows him to bring the various characters to life for listeners. French builds, and Clark delivers, an atmospheric tale filled with colorful characters.
For series fans, listeners might turn to Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series, read by Aiofe McMahon. THE GOOD TURN, Book 3 in the series, was released in June of 2020. For those not familiar with Cormac Reilly, you may want to start with THE ROOMMATE, a novella that serves as a prequel to the series. McMahon is a talented and versatile narrator who can voice men and woman convincingly and uses subtle accent changes to clearly differentiate characters. She is a pleasure to listen to. The series takes us to present-day Galway and its environs. Listeners get to ride along with Reilly to get a picture of working as a “garda” and see his personal life evolve. You can watch an interview with Dervla McTiernan on the Murder Mondays series produced by Sisters in Crime Australia. (McTiernan now lives in Australia.)
Another author who should be mentioned here is Adrian McKinty. McKinty has authored three series as well as a number of standalone books. I am a fan of his Sean Duffy series, and Book 6, POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY, earned an Earphones Award for Golden Voice narrator Gerard Doyle. You can see an interview with McKinty where he shares the moment he was ready to give up his dream of being a writer and how he was drawn back to write THE CHAIN, narrated by Golden Voice January LaVoy. This standalone takes place in the U.S. and was recently optioned by Paramount Pictures.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of Irish mystery audiobooks. There is an entire world to explore. For those wanting a serious study of this genre, you can check out GUILT RULES ALL: Irish Mystery, Detective, and Crime Fiction, edited by Elisabeth Mannion and Brian Cliff (sorry, audiophiles, not yet published as an audiobook).