Black Water is a debut novel from Cormac O’Keeffe and is set in Dublin and centres on a gang that terrorizes the local community around the canal.
It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest fan of crime novels – I don’t know what it is, but they usually don’t do it for me. However my mum is a massive (fiction) crime reader so I’ve decided to slowly immerse myself in crime books every now and then throughout 2018. I recently read The Chalk Man and my god was that a great book! So I had high hopes for Black Water as I thought I’d been missing out on the crime genre all along!
However, whilst Black Water is a good book, that’s pretty much where it stops for me.
It’s an easy read, which is good, and it makes me think that it’d be a great introductory book for people (like me) who might be new to the crime genre. I think the thing that let me down the most about this book is that it wasn’t as gritty as I wanted it to be. The blurb and hype promised a dark look into gangland in Ireland and I just didn’t get that. Yes, there were a few uncomfortable scenes of torture or outright cruelty, but nothing haunting.
For a story that centres around a gang and their cat-and-mouse evasion from the police, as well as their blatant recruitment and grooming of children from underdeveloped areas, it just didn’t hit too hard for me and I felt excluded from a lot of it. Now part of this could be because I felt that a lot of the language was quiet alienating as the Irish slang was quite inaccessible to me. There were several instances where I’d tried to Google what a word was to no avail, and it got frustrating after a while.
“He leaned over the inky black water and dropped the empty bottle.”
The characters were very well written, and it was obvious that the author went to some effort to fully flesh out his characters and give them several dimensions. There were clearly evil characters, some more morally complex ones and some innocents all in the mix. However, I found that I wasn’t connected to any of them. Even the kid, Jig. I just didn’t care what happened to anyone. Live, die, tortured – it was all the same to me. I felt the most emotional investment in the horse and Bowie, the dog.
It’s clear that the author knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the inner workings of the police – but I think he might have forgotten that most of us aren’t as intimately familiar with it all. The final few chapters, as the plot came to a crux, got quite messy with names and titles being flung all over the place. For those who are familiar, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but I got a bit lost.
All being said, this novel has flaws (for me) but it’s a strong debut for the author and I think, with the right audience, the book will take off. But it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
“I need your brains as well as your balls.”
[PLEASE NOTE]: I was given a copy of this book to review. This did not affect my review in a positive or negative way – all the opinions are honest and my own.