This is what may be termed as a “bad sandwich” book: nothing wrong with the bread but what’s in the sandwich is awful. In other words: the first and third act are a lot of fun, the second act soured me to the point where it’s tough to appreciate the book in its totality.
I’ll start with the positives. I liked the Michael Forsythe character. Immigrating from Ireland to get work, Michael is stuck with a violent gang tied to the Irish mob in early-90s New York City. Michael has a wry sense of humor and a such-is-life view of his work. He doesn’t like it but he does it. He’s not written as a super-cool pop-culture-sprouting hitman in the Tarantino mold like a lot of books and movies that came out from 1995-2005. He reads, he meditates on life, he doesn’t romanticize his current situation or the home country. There’s not a trace of stereotype in him (he doesn’t even like Irish whiskey!). Adrian McKinty wrote a fully realized character and I enjoyed spending time with him.
Unfortunately, the middle of the book doesn’t work well at all, at least for me. I knew little of it going in but I assumed from what I had read that it would follow a typical 3-act structure. And it did. Like I said at the top, the second act doesn’t work for me. It drags and tries too hard to build narrative tension for the third act. I can’t say much without spoiling but the second act was a slog and I only kept up with it because the first act had built such goodwill. I was rewarded in part three but not enough to elevate this to the typical 4-stars I give to things that I enjoy and are competently written.
Nevertheless, Adrian McKinty is a talent. I added the second book to my massive TBR list and maybe I’ll get to it some day. The second act didn’t turn me off from him but it did make me wary.