6 October 2009

Review: FIFTY GRAND, Adrian McKinty

Serpent's Tail, 2009, ISBN, 978-1-846668-723-5, 308 pages

When Mercado was 13, her father walked out of her life. He committed treason, hijacked a ferry, and escaped to Mexico. He never came back, never wrote, and left Mercado, her brother Ricky, and their mother to fend for themselves as best they could, which wasn't well. Mercado becomes a cop in Cuba. And then 14 years on her brother is told their father has been killed in Colorado, the victim of a hit and run. Mercado's brother Ricky is allowed to go to Colorado to make the funeral arrangements, and comes back convinced there was something strange about their father's death. That idea eats at Mercado until she decides she has to go to Colorado herself.

Set in a world of drug smuggling and illegal immigration into the USA, in a Colorado ski resort where the local sheriff turns a blind eye, and takes his cut, FIFTY GRAND almost lost me in the second chapter with incredibly graphic violence. The fact that the third chapter is in a different time frame, and much calmer, kept me reading. By its end I knew what Ricky had found out, and what Mercado intended to do.

I once had a book where the chapters were un-numbered, each one packaged. The reader was invited to read the chapters in any order of their choice. That's not quite what McKinty has done here. What he seems to have done is taken one of the last chapters and dealt it first, and then a middle chapter and dealt it second (that's the gruesome one). By the time you've read them, and then the more sedate chapter 3, you'll be hooked. You'll want to know why those first two chapters happened. This is a very powerful book, with a twist in the tail (or is it tale?) that I bet you don't see coming.

My rating: 4.6

Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. He studied politics at Oxford University and after a failed legal career he moved to the US in the early 1990s. He found work as a security guard, postman, construction worker, barman, rugby coach and bookstore clerk before becoming a school teacher in Denver. You get the feeling in FIFTY GRAND that he knows Colorado well. In 2008 he moved to St. Kilda, Melbourne, Australia with his wife and kids. He now describes himself as an Irish novelist currently living in Oz. You can learn a lot more about McKinty on his blog: the psychopathology of everyday life.

His books for adults:
Michael Forsythe series
1. Dead I Well May Be (2003)
2. The Dead Yard (2006)
3. The Bloomsday Dead (2007)

Orange Rhymes With Everything (1997)
Hidden River (2005)
Fifty Grand (2009)

Other reviews:


Anonymous said...

Kerrie - It sounds as though McKinty has really done an interesting job of using the book's organization to get the reader hooked. Sounds intriguing....

I was also intrigued by the idea of reading a book where the chapters can be read in any order. I'll have to think about how that might work out... Did you enjoy that book? Is the reader able to figure the plot out? It's just a really interesting concept.

Dorte H said...

Intriguing chronology!

And it sounds as if it actually works?
McKinty is on my wish list (together with several others, of course), and I am not quite sure what to make of him.

Kerrie said...

Margot, the "read the chapters in any order" book was for teenagers, and a git gimmicky, a bit like a choose your own adventure thing. I remember it being a bit frustrating. I'm not sure whether McKinty wrote this book book in a conventional linear fashion and then re-arranged the chapters or whether he wrote these two incidents and then told us the back-story, but it does work.

Kerrie said...

Dorte, I oh so nearly stopped reading in the second chapter (I am justa bit squeamish) but I'm glad I didn't. PeterDBB says I must read the "Dead" series.

adrian mckinty said...


Thanks for the review!

Yes chap 2 is a bit grim, but a true reflection of life on the border and just how awful it is to be an illegal in the hands of a cayote trying to get Stateside.

Dont think the rest of the book really has any stomach churning moments though, except maybe - spoiler alert - Raul's Castro's disgusting folds of skin under his chin.

Australian Online Bookshop said...

Great review Kerry. I'm actually really looking forward to reading this book. Some friends of mine have been recomending it for a few weeks now so i'll get to it some time in the next couple of weeks. I'll let you know how it goes!

Kerrie said...

Thanks for dropping in Adrian. I really will get around to reading the "Dead" series - PeterDBB says I must!

Kerrie said...

AOB- I'll be pleased to hear back from you too.


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