Winterland by Alan Glynn

The Blurb On The Back:

The worlds of business, politics and crime collide when two men with the same name, from the same family, die on the same night – one death is a gangland murder, the other, apparently, a road accident.  Was it a coincidence?  That’s the official version of events.  But then a family member, Gina Rafferty, starts asking questions.

You can order WINTERLAND by Alan Glynn from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

32-year-old Gina Rafferty is co-founder of a failing data software business, who lives and works in Dublin, Ireland.  The youngest of 5 siblings and very much an afterthought for her parents, she’s never been particularly close to her sisters Catherine, Michelle or Yvonne but there’s always been a sort of kinship with her brother Noel who works as an engineer on the Richmond Plaza office block project.  But everything changes when Catherine’s son (also called Noel) is shot dead in a pub.  Known for having criminal connections, the assumption of the police is that Noel’s death is the result of some gangland beef, but when the older Noel dies the same night in a car accident, which the police say was caused by his being drunk, Gina finds it suspicious.

With the police unwilling to investigate, Gina sets about asking questions, starting with Winterland Properties, the company behind Richmond Plaza.  Its chairman is Paddy Norton, a wealthy property developer for whom Richmond Plaza is his crowning achievement and who is currently negotiating with an American company called Amcan, which he hopes will be the anchor tenant in the new building.  Amcan’s CEO, meanwhile, Ray Sullivan is interested in Larry Bolger, the Irish Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, who is being touted as the potential next Taoiseach and who goes way back with Norton.  Gina knows that Norton had a drink with her brother the night of his death and that Noel was stressed as a result of that meeting.  

What she doesn’t know is how her refusal to let go won’t just reveal murder but also corruption and cover ups that some people will go to whatever lengths necessary to keep hidden … 

Alan Glynn’s crime thriller makes good use of its Irish setting and the impact of property development on the economy and society but the initial murder twist is quite contrived and the plot becomes more contrived as it goes on.  It’s not helped by the fact that neither Gina, Norton nor Bolger really feel like fully realised characters, which makes it difficult to empathise with them. Ultimately it’s not a bad read but it didn’t really gel for me.

The opening of the book is well done with Glynn setting up the two Noels and their respective murders with a good amount of tension and intrigue.  He also makes the decision to show who is responsible for the murders quite early on, which then flips the narrative onto why the murder has been committed with the tension coming from Gina trying to unpick it all.  I think that might have worked better for me had Gina been a more dynamic investigator but the whole schtick here is that she is very much stumbling along, making discoveries by accident and through making blunders drives on revelations and other events, which began to feel more and more contrived as the plot went on.

It’s also not helped by the fact that while there’s a lot of information about Gina and her relationship with her sisters and brother in the initial chapters and you know that her business is failing, she shows no interest in her business or what means to her and I wasn’t entirely sure what her skillset was supposed to be for most of the book until it suddenly came up at the end.  She just doesn’t feel fully realised and because of that, I found it difficult to empathise with her.  Similarly Norton is kind of sketched in with his strained marriage, addiction to painkillers and need to keep Amco on board and although there’s some pertinent backstory for Bolger in the final third as you learn about how he came into politics following the death of his older brother, I wasn’t really sure what drove him other than expectation and he kind of floats adjacent to the main plot without really adding anything to it.

I did like the way that Glynn navigates the various worlds in Ireland – from high level business and politics to petty gangs and council estates and the dialogue has a naturalistic feel to it.  I also wished that there had been more of Gina’s relationship with Yvonne and Catherine as what you get at the beginning has a lot of promise.

The pacing generally works pretty well, mainly because of the way that Glynn switches between points of view to keep the story going and I was interested enough to keep turning the pages.  However the ending has one set up too many with the final denouement far too telegraphed in advance for it to be satisfying.

I didn’t think this was a bad book – in fact I’d check out Glynn’s other books on the strength of this – but the plot didn’t really gel together for me for this to be an enjoyable read.  

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