The Swinging Detective
This is a ’prentice effort for Henry McDonald ( The Swinging Detective), at least in writing a sustained, 330-odd pages, of a fairly complex novel. It is in the form of, essentially, a ‘thriller’ (fair enough ‘thriller’ is not up there with bildungsroman or novella as a literary form, but it has some formal attributes – bear with me). The biographical ‘blurb’ on the book’s back-cover claims McDonald “has a deep knowledge of Marxism” and “the German punk scene”. Which means Henry was once the rising star of the Workers’ Party of Ireland (formerly ‘Official’ Sinn Féin / the Republican Clubs) in its glazed-eyed Muscovite days. But the element of ‘inside knowledge’ is quite lightly handled, and while Martin Peters, the central figure of the tale is a useful ‘outsider’ he knows Berlin intimately.
That is because he was a British ‘spook’ in the days before the Wall came down – Belfast also comes into the matter. Peters (the similarity of the moniker to the England ‘World cup’ team member is acknowledged – so far as England soccer fans are concerned there is only one World Cup worth consideration – that of 1966). Peters is haunted by the killing of (an exotically-named, female Loyalist assassin) the description of the actual killing of this unlikely person fits that of an actual UVF operative, Brian Robinson. He was a pillion passenger on a motorbike, and was shot dead by Brit (or possibly RUC) spooks. He and his driver were on an Ardoyne (north Belfast) ‘Fenian’-killing expedition.
The book itself is largely about the killing of ‘paedophiles’ – men convicted of sexually molesting children in Thailand and Sri Lanka. There are very good descriptions of the social reaction to this series of events. The police have the problem of having to offer some sort of protection to men who are at the bottom of just about anybody’s list of worthy citizens; complicated by the fact that these men are simultaneously in dire need of protection on a 24 / 7 basis – and don’t want to draw attention to themselves. The attention comes in the form of an ad-hoc Mothers Against Paedophiles group, led by a loud, publicity-grabbing ‘targe’ of a woman. And an assassin who specialises in killing these men in increasingly imaginative ways. The tabloid press joins in the whipping up of social hysteria about ‘paedophiles’ (the numbers of whom, in society are, as ever, hugely over-inflated).
The killing of these people – generally deemed to be socially worthless (human, if that, garbage), leads to all sorts of complications – the chief one being the bullying of entirely innocent elderly men, and the stretching of police resource, human and otherwise to breaking point. Peters eventually tracks down ‘St Christopher’, the executioner of the men who had gone abroad to molest, mostly elementary school age boys. We are spared descriptions of the ‘interaction’ with the children in the Third World, but the results of such things are obvious – destroyed socialisation and driving into drugs (including alcohol).
The killer of these men turns out not to be a ‘moralistic’ avenger. His motivation is anti-imperialist, this is just the dirtiest element in the over-all exploitation of these boys (it is implied very strongly, that girls and young women are victims too). This is a well-written and – arresting – is the only word, novel.
It is well worth some hours of your time.
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