Title: THE COLOUR OF BLOOD
Author: Declan Hughes
Publisher: Hachette Livre
Edition released: May 2007
Review by: Karen Chisholm
THE COLOUR OF BLOOD is the second Ed Loy novel by Declan Hughes, the first being The Wrong Kind of Blood, published in 2006.
Ed Loy is a Private Investigator in current day Dublin, Ireland - a place that's part gritty, poor, desperate and part rich, privileged, twisted. Shane Howard is a Dublin dentist, and the son of Dr John Howard, a pillar of Dublin Irish Society, famous in the local area, with a legacy that is maintained by his family. Shane's 19 year old daughter Emily has gone missing and now he is getting blackmail threats and sexually explicit photographs of her - Shane is not sure if she's being abused or if she's a willing participant.
What starts off as a fairly straight-forward job locating the missing Emily and tracking down the source of the photographs rapidly gets more and more complicated as digging around in the Howard family starts to reveal a lot of skeletons in everyone's closets.
There are a few reasons why you'd wonder if this was a good book or not. There's the tortured, embittered, lost, hard-drinking PI in Ed but for many reasons he may teeter on the edge of the cliché, but he never quite tips over. There's the wealthy, seemingly successful Howard family, rotten to the core with all sorts of secrets and tacky goings on, but stereotypical in many ways, however there's something engaging, human, interesting in many of the members of that family.
There are a lot of subplots in THE COLOUR OF BLOOD. As Emily is found and the blackmailers are being tracked down, there are events in and surrounding the family from years ago, leading up to current day, that are rapidly revealed. The book roars along at a rapid pace with revelation and resolution overlapping themselves at every twist.
There's also a great sense of irony, of gentle humour, the cast of characters certainly help with that. The dentist Shane, whose Medical Doctor father never quite "approved" of his choice of career. Sandra, the Irish Princess, sister of Shane, family manipulator, she of the vaguely Gothic look, swooping down from the family estates to rescue Emily and her son Jonathan. Jonathan and his purposely put on private school boy touches. None of these humorous touches are overdone but they balance the brutality of many of the other aspects of the novel.
Finally, there's a great sense of place in THE COLOUR OF BLOOD. Current day Dublin with its wealth, opportunity, developers and 21st century values are contrasted brutally against the greed, exploitation, societal manipulation, hypocrisy, criminal gangs, drugs and violence. And ultimately that's the crux of the whole book - if something's rotten at the core, then it doesn't matter a damn where that something is positioned on the social scale - the damage lingers and it will come back to bite you.