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The Hidden River - Adrian McKinty

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Author: Adrian McKinty / Genre: Crime / Thriller

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      15.01.2008 11:56
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      An interesting take on the crime thriller

      The Private Eye genre is littered with characters that are addicted to something. Rarely do you get to follow a PI around without him (invariably male) having to visit a pub, or at least a bottle. Some authors have shaken things up a little by giving the PI a poor relationship that he feels trapped in, or a family he rarely sees. Whatever the affliction is it's normally something that the author can use to make the PI appear more flawed and not a superhuman crime fighter. Adrian McKinty has taken this addictive stance to the next level with his character Alex Lawson; can a heroin addicted ex-police officer really solve a suspected murder? And more importantly will a reader sympathise with him?

      Alex is an ex-police officer from Northern Ireland who claims not to be an addict, so why does he have to inject heroin at least once a day? He begins his day like any other by trying to score some drugs. However, events unfold that leads him to America were he is asked to investigate the death of a former lover who died in suspicious circumstances. Alex is a fugitive in Northern Ireland and he soon finds himself in similar trouble in America, can he uncover the murderer whilst trying to feed his addiction in a foreign land?

      McKinty has not tried to shy away from the darker aspects of life in 'Hidden River' and by the end of the book you feel that you have read one of the harshest crime books around. Therefore, it is great credit to the author that he is able to make the dark subject matter so appealing and this is due in many ways to the quality of his writing and the development of his characters. Alex plays the central role in the book and by making him a junkie McKinty is treading a very thin line with the reader's sympathies. Make the character too dependent and they would resent him, make him too active and perhaps he would be unbelievable. Indeed by making Alex a very intelligent man forced into drug dependence by circumstances McKinty has made one of the most interesting PIs around. The story is no longer just a simple whodunit, but also a chase for the next hit. These duel motives mean that Alex is forever torn between his selfish needs and those of the dead girl's family.

      Alex's dependence on drugs means that large parts of the book are not actually about the investigation, but about him getting out of scrapes. This was probably for the best as the central mystery is not the strongest in crime history. What McKinty does instead of a strong crime is develop decent suspects. The other characters in the book are not quite as well written as that of Alex but they are certainly strong enough to keep you guessing who may be the culprit. By going undercover Alex is able to integrate himself with all the suspects and as a reader you get a feel for who you think could be a murderer.

      One final area that McKinty writes well are the action sequences. There are no straight laced cops on show here so when Alex and co. get caught in a situation it is normally quite chaotic. This leads to a couple of very exciting chase sequences that throw huge twists into the plot. Rather than being something to hate, McKinty has made Alex's addiction a great plot device allowing the book to delve far deeper into the criminal world than any legitimate PI would have access to.

      With few light moments in the book I would have normally disliked 'Hidden River' as dark crime is normally too much for me. However, the characters and story were so well developed that the action lightened the story. It is certainly not your average crime thriller and many people will dislike the central character as he has fallen far from his old status. However, there were enough interesting differences in the book to mean that I really enjoyed it. Where else would you get a PI whose first thought was not to the victim, but their own needs? One for crime fans looking for something a little different.

      Author: Adrian McKinty
      Price: amazon uk - £6.39
      play.com - £5.99

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