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Black Irish

Cover of Black Irish

Black Irish

A Novel
Borrow

In this explosive debut thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water, a brilliant homicide detective returns home, where she confronts a city's dark demons and her own past while pursuing a brutal serial killer on a vengeful rampage.

Absalom "Abbie" Kearney grew up an outsider in her own hometown. Even being the adopted daughter of a revered cop couldn't keep Abbie's troubled past from making her a misfit in the working-class Irish American enclave of South Buffalo. And now, despite a Harvard degree and a police detective's badge, she still struggles to earn the respect and trust of those she's sworn to protect. But all that may change, once the killing starts.

When Jimmy Ryan's mangled corpse is found in a local church basement, this sadistic sacrilege sends a bone-deep chill through the winter-whipped city. It also seems to send a message--one that Abbie believes only the fiercely secretive citizens of the neighborhood known as "the County" understand. But in a town ruled by an old-world code of silence and secrecy, her search for answers is stonewalled at every turn, even by fellow cops. Only when Abbie finds a lead at the Gaelic Club, where war stories, gossip, and confidences flow as freely as the drink, do tongues begin to wag--with desperate warnings and dire threats. And when the killer's mysterious calling card appears on her own doorstep, the hunt takes a shocking twist into her own family's past. As the grisly murders and grim revelations multiply, Abbie wages a chilling battle of wits with a maniac who sees into her soul, and she swears to expose the County's hidden history--one bloody body at a time.

With Black Irish, Stephen Talty stakes a place beside Jo Nesbø , John Sandford, and Tana French on the cutting edge of psychological crime thrillers.


From the Hardcover edition.

In this explosive debut thriller by the New York Times bestselling author of Empire of Blue Water, a brilliant homicide detective returns home, where she confronts a city's dark demons and her own past while pursuing a brutal serial killer on a vengeful rampage.

Absalom "Abbie" Kearney grew up an outsider in her own hometown. Even being the adopted daughter of a revered cop couldn't keep Abbie's troubled past from making her a misfit in the working-class Irish American enclave of South Buffalo. And now, despite a Harvard degree and a police detective's badge, she still struggles to earn the respect and trust of those she's sworn to protect. But all that may change, once the killing starts.

When Jimmy Ryan's mangled corpse is found in a local church basement, this sadistic sacrilege sends a bone-deep chill through the winter-whipped city. It also seems to send a message--one that Abbie believes only the fiercely secretive citizens of the neighborhood known as "the County" understand. But in a town ruled by an old-world code of silence and secrecy, her search for answers is stonewalled at every turn, even by fellow cops. Only when Abbie finds a lead at the Gaelic Club, where war stories, gossip, and confidences flow as freely as the drink, do tongues begin to wag--with desperate warnings and dire threats. And when the killer's mysterious calling card appears on her own doorstep, the hunt takes a shocking twist into her own family's past. As the grisly murders and grim revelations multiply, Abbie wages a chilling battle of wits with a maniac who sees into her soul, and she swears to expose the County's hidden history--one bloody body at a time.

With Black Irish, Stephen Talty stakes a place beside Jo Nesbø , John Sandford, and Tana French on the cutting edge of psychological crime thrillers.


From the Hardcover edition.

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  • From the book

    Chapter One

    Detective Absalom Kearney took the exit for the Skyway and the Ford nosed upward, climbing with the gray asphalt. Lake Erie was frozen over far below and to her right; to her left, Buffalo's industrial waterfront slept as quiet and still as an oil painting. The factory smokestacks rode past, even with her windshield, but not a smudge of smoke drifted up from them. The waterfront was dead, slumbering for the past three decades. When Absalom used to ride along this part of the highway with her father twenty years before, she'd sometimes hear the smokestacks keen as the storm winds hit them.

    She rolled down the window. The smokestacks were silent. The squall hadn't peaked yet.

    The crest of the road was ahead, only slate-­colored sky beyond. Three stories up, the Skyway was a ribbon of concrete spilled across the clouds. The wind shook the car with a guttering rattle. Abbie gripped the wheel harder.

    She felt the fear grow inside her again, blooming like a growing rose in a sped-­up film. She took the Skyway every time she had to go to South Buffalo instead of driving down the 90, where the highway hugged the earth all the way to the exit at Seneca Street, by the junkyard that seemed to hold the same hundred wrecked cars she'd seen there as a child. Abbie told herself she took the road above the lake because she wanted to face the thing that terrified her. Which was what, exactly?

    White tendrils of snow skimmed ahead of her Ford Crown Vic, pushed by the wind. The front edge of the storm was blowing in, spinning a spiderweb of frozen lace on the asphalt. Her eyes followed them as the road rose. Endlessly intricate patterns, hypnotic to watch them form and break, form and break.

    There were no cars up ahead, not a single red brake light in the tall, rippling curtains of snow. The empty highway made her think that if she moved the wheel just two inches to the right she would put the car into the railing. A lull, the bang of ice, and then water. Lake Erie in January was a freezing tomb. Death in fifteen minutes. She'd looked it up, whether to calm herself or scare herself she had no idea.

    She could almost hear the snow crystals scour the asphalt. They made a rough, hissing sound that grated on your eardrums. It was like the shushing of a dogsled heading into blankness, disappearing into the advancing storm . . .

    Abbie leaned and turned up the radio, which the last detective had tuned to a country station and which she hadn't bothered to change. She found the University of Buffalo station playing some obscure eighties synth music.

    When she told her partner Z about how odd she felt driving Buffalo highways, he'd asked her why. She'd brushed it off then, but now she knew. It's the emptiness. The enormous emptiness. Or the loneliness, that was it, the feeling of being alone in a place that should be filled with other people, cars full of families headed to the super­market, to the restaurant on the lake, to the hockey game. Buffalo had built miles of highways during the boom years, enough for a million people. The people that were going to come but didn't. Why not? Where'd they disappear to? What happened to them?

    Now the gray roads splayed across the city, empty half the time. The local joke was the only way Buffalo would get a rush hour was if Toronto got hit by a nuclear bomb and panicked Canadians came pouring south. You could drive for twenty minutes at a time at three on a weekday afternoon and not see another car pass you. The highway system was a network of veins laid across a dead heart.

    But she couldn't talk about those things, because eyes were already on her. She'd only been...

About the Author-
  • Stephan Talty is the author of the New York Times bestseller Empire of Blue Water, as well as Escape from the Land of Snows, The Illustrious Dead, and Mulatto America. Black Irish is his first novel.

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    All copies of this title, including those transferred to portable devices and other media, must be deleted/destroyed at the end of the lending period.

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