All of Dublin is excited about the construction of its first skyscraper, Richmond Plaza, especially billionaire land developer Paddy Norton who is the owner of Winterland Properties. He is good friends with Larry Bolger, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment who is his Party’s shoe in for prime minister. Norton’s associate, Noel Rafferty, a structural engineer working on the Richmond Plaza, is killed when his car crashes into a ravine. Noel’s sister Gina doesn’t believe his death was an accident. Somehow, it is related to the gangland murder of her drug dealing nephew who was also named Noel Rafferty. As Gina investigates her brother’s death, she learns that it is tied in with a similar car accident that occurred twenty-five years ago and killed Larry Bolger’s brother, Frank. Torture, murder and mayhem ensue as Gina’s investigation brings her closer to the shocking truth.
Alan Glynn’s “Winterland” is a soap opera-like crime drama that is brimming with action, suspense and mystery. However, the violence is very low key. There is a torture scene, but it is implicit rather than explicit. Only the aftermath is described. Foul language is kept to a minimum and there is surprisingly no sex. What I loved most about this novel is the excellent characterization. There is a wide assortment of believable characters from various socio economic backgrounds. The reader will find some admirable and some despicable. There is the slimy young drug lord, Terry Stack, who tortures his victims with electrical cables, and the elderly, affable James Vaughan who once worked for John Kennedy and is providing much of the financing for the Richmond Plaza.
My favorite character, and the reason why I adore “Winterland,” is Gina Rafferty, co-owner of Lucius Software. Independent, energetic, tenacious and brave, she refuses to accept her brother’s car accident at face value. On several occasions, this feisty, attractive software developer risks her life in order to discover the truth and avenge the deaths of her relatives. She is one of my favorite mystery novel heroines. (Another favorite of mine is Bess Crawford of Charles Todd’s “A Duty to the Dead.”) Gina is aided by her brother’s friend, Detective Superintendent Jackie Merrigan, and Mark Griffin who was a little boy when his family was slaughtered in the same car accident that killed politician Frank Bolger. There is an inkling of romance between Gina and Mark; unfortunately, it never reaches fruition because Mark spends a great deal of time in the hospital, leaving Gina at the mercy of thugs.
If Gina Rafferty is the protagonist, then wealthy Paddy Norton is definitely the antagonist or villain. Greedy, egotistical and conniving, his evilness is never fully comprehended by the reader until the novel’s closing pages. He will kill anyone who tries to prevent the construction of the controversial Richmond Plaza, which will serve as the crowning achievement of his career. Addicted to pain killers, he suffers from anxiety attacks. The guilt of his past sins weighs heavily on his nerves. For twenty-five years, he’s tried to suppress the events that surrounded the suspicious car accident that killed Frank. Now, history has repeated itself and the horror has returned in such a magnitude that even the strongest pills won’t assuage it.
The plot for “Winterland” appears to have been ripped from today’s headlines. There is always a scandal involving a politician who’s been having an affair or inappropriately using funds. Larry Bolger is one such politician. Furthermore, land is scarce. Unable to expand outward, many cities are expanding upward. Building skyscrapers is very trendy. It’s the new frontier. Thanks to a global economy, numerous countries invest in the building of a single skyscraper. In “Winterland,” Ray Sullivan is an American CEO for Amcan, the anchor company for Richmond Plaza. Also, global warming and the extreme weather that it can create plays a significant factor in this complex, plausible crime drama.
“Winterland” is a must read for fans of Irish noir and crime drama in general. Readers will be praying and hoping that Gina Rafferty will succeed in bringing her brother’s murderers to justice. Alan Glynn is also the author of “Dark Fields,” which will soon be released as a film from Universal. It is the story of a Manhattan copywriter, Eddie Spinola, who becomes quickly, and hopelessly, addicted to a powerful new drug, MDT-48, which increases intelligence. Eddie’s character reminds me of Paddy Norton in “Winterland”; he was addicted to pain killers. If you like Irish noir, then I highly recommend Stuart Neville’s “The Ghosts of Belfast” in which Gerry Fegan, former hit man for the IRA, must assassinate those responsible for murdering the innocent souls that haunt him.