The Devil I Know

Claire Kilroy

First Sentence:    ‘Please state your name for the record.’

Back of the book:

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile

He made a crooked deal and he blew a crooked pile

He dug a crooked hole

And he sank the crooked isle

And they all went to hell in a stew of crooked bile.

The Devil I Know is a thrilling novel of greed and hubris, set against the backdrop of a brewing international debt crisis. Told by Tristram, it recounts his return home after a self-imposed exile only to find himself trapped as a middle man played on both sides – by  a grotesque builder he’s known since childhood on the one hand, and a shadowy businessman he’s never met on the other. Caught between them and an overblown property development, Tristram has a dawning realisation that all is not well.

From a writer unafraid to take risks The Devil I Know is a bold, brilliant and disturbing piece of storytelling.

Quotes from the book:

We waited for the tummult within the glass to settle, the chaos that miraculously resolves itself into a well of black topped by a head of cream – a trick, a cruel trick – it never resolves, but lapses back into chaos the second you swallow it. A chaos so calamitous that you don’t know where to turn to escape it, but by then it’s too late. The chaos is inside you. That is the nature of a pint.

“This was it. This was what I was. A cubic pint of deepest black. I was holding my soul, distilled into liquid and aching to be reunited with my body, howling to be poured back in. I brought the glass closer again. I knew this would happen. I wanted this to happen. I still want it to happen. I always will.”

The recent history of this country has been moulded by those without the vision to perceive the flaws in their plans.

“That Hickey was digging us into a big hole. That across the country people were digging themselves into big holes, that big holes were spreading across Ireland like the pox, eating away at the heart of the island. Nobody was interested in negative sentiments. People who engaged in cribbing and moaning from the sidelines should frankly go and commit suicide, the Taoiseach had told us.”

The surface of the sea was like life: an overwhelming, unending onslaught of peaks and troughs, but silence and darkness if you let yourself go under.

“My mind was racing. My thoughts were skipping grooves.”

If one thing stands out about my miserable tale, it is this: that it has no winners.

* * * *

Last Sentence:     I am afraid of what I will see.

Excellent young Irish novelist, excellent book.