The Color of Blood by Declan Hughes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
"Nothing's ever what it is, it's always bound up with something else, something that happened in the past." This is a quote from Declan Hughes' "The Color of Blood" but it could as well have been a summary of the main theme in novels written by an American mystery writer, Ross Macdonald. When I was reading the first two chapters I felt as if I were reading a new book by the author of "The Chill" and "The Underground Man", one of my most favorite mystery authors. I fell in love with the first half of "The Color of Blood". Reading a Ross Macdonald's novel happening in Dublin, Ireland, in 2006 was an unexpected treat. In addition to interesting plot, the novel invited comparisons between Southern California society of the 1950s and 1960s and that of Ireland of the 2000s.
Ed Loy, a private investigator in Dublin, is hired by Shane Howard, a rich and powerful man, to find his 19-year old daughter whose pornographic pictures are being used as a blackmail tool. The case soon becomes much more complex; several people are murdered, and connections to the past of the Howard family emerge. Mr. Loy is very much like Lew Archer of Macdonald's novels: a PI with strong moral principles and a heart of gold who is able to respond to violence with violence and who is inclined to take law into his own hands. The case investigated by Mr. Loy, like Lew Archer's cases, is about what powerful people can do to less powerful people; how they can destroy their lives just because they can.
My enthusiasm about "The Color of Blood" gradually decreased as I kept reading. What was a great four-star novel after first few chapters, a good three-star book by about the mid-point, totally collapsed into a ridiculously overblown, overcomplicated, and way overlong mess. The plot became so bizarrely convoluted in the last 80 or so pages that I felt it bordered on the absurd. I had a hard time to force myself to finish reading the novel that began so wonderfully promising.
One of the main differences between a great writer and a not-so-great one is that the former knows when to stop writing.
Two and a quarter stars.
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