Saturday, 21 April 2007

Tenderwire by Claire Kilroy

Claire Kilroy
Faber €??
Lucille Redmond

CRITICS, 'those insects who live for but one day', as Voltaire had it, have been less evanescent than usual about Claire Kilroy's second book, lavishing almost universal praise on the brilliant literary thriller.

Readers are equally enthusiastic, and the book is being whipped out from under the eager grabbing hands of would-be buyers in bookshops.

The story: a starry violinist - a bit out there; think Nige Kennedy in drag - collapses after her debut as soloist. On leaving hospital she goes on the batter, and in one of many dodgy pubs meets a dodgy guy - Chechen, Russian, something - who has a Strad for sale.

Yeah, right, she thinks, but then she hears it and thinks, Yeah.

Conscience isn't her strongest point in any case, so her subsequent adventures include a great deal of sidestepping of ethical dilemmas.

The writing is mouthwatering. The maybe-Chechen is huge and 'as blond as a child'; he's selling what he calls 'fairy special violence' that travel secretly around the world like mice. It's 'just another fiddle in a country full of fiddles'.

The fairy special violence and its provenance come quickly into question. Can it be a Nazi trophy, the moral property of a Jewish family? Or is that another scam?

Underlying this story is another: the businessman gone missing from a north Dublin headland, the subsequent torture of animals on that headland, in which the young violinist may have been involved…

Fairy special violence indeed, and a writer born to play it.

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