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Moncrieff, Sean - 'The History of Things'
Paperback: 400 pages (Mar. 2008) Publisher: New Island Books ISBN: 1905494181

It's not a conventional crime novel by any means, and there's a strong chance that Sean Moncrieff (who has previously published the crime novel DUBLIN) didn't set out to write crime fiction with THE HISTORY OF THINGS, but this is nonetheless a fascinating tale rooted in criminality. What is most interesting is that there's no murders, rapes, gory tortures or bank jobs gone wrong on offer here: the criminality is of a low-level but persistent variety, the kind that doesn't make it into the headlines but remains an integral part of many people's lives.

When the Irish-born film director, Tomas Dalton, relocates from London to Dublin in the wake of his divorce, he moves back to his childhood stomping ground in north inner-city Dublin. Half-expecting to be hailed as a returning hero, and quickly disappointed, Tomas soon becomes the target of pranks perpetrated by a trio of juvenile delinquents, the eldest no more than 10 years old. Tomas, applying his brand of logic to the situation, retaliates in kind, and soon the practical jokes take on a much more sinister tone, as the tit-for-tat spirals down into threats, destruction and actual violence. Meanwhile, Tomas is trying to come to make sense of his life and the world around him, specifically in terms of the function of memory, all the while painfully aware that his powers of recall are diminishing by the day.

Very much a slow burner of a novel, THE HISTORY OF THINGS rewards patience. Traditionally, the private eye investigates the era and culture as much as he or she probes a given case, and Dalton is very much Moncrieff's avatar as he casts a cold eye on the post-Celtic Tiger landscape of modern Ireland. The personification of Ireland's unwillingness to confront its recent past, and a classic unreliable narrator even to himself during his stream-of-consciousness ramblings, Dalton is one of the most intriguing protagonists to emerge from mainstream Irish fiction in quite some time.

Review reprinted with the kind permission of the author.

Declan Burke, Ireland
March 2008

Declan blogs at Crime Always Pays.

last updated 21/03/2008 19:42