In this sequel to his impressive debut novel To Keep A Bird Singing, Kevin Doyle delves further into the murky world of the powerful Donnelly family and their association with the Catholic church and the security forces. The clock is ticking as Noelie and his friends try to uncover the network of corruption and deception that the family have used to protect themselves and their operations. But Albert Donnelly is onto Noelie and there’s nothing he won’t do to stop him.
Edgy, dark and sharp, Kevin Doyle’s A River of Bodies is a cracking political thriller – restless, brilliantly plotted and topical.
Thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours and Black Staff for my copy of ‘ A River of Bodies’ by Kevin Doyle. On my stop on the tour today is an Excerpt from the book..
Noelie Sullivan returns to the flat. Katrina, Hannah’s other best friend is already there. Katrina announces that she wants to help with finding out who was behind Hannah’s murder …
Katrina sat down on an edge of the windowsill and stared out at the river too. There was silence for a while. Noelie figured she was in her mid-thirties. She was an outdoorsy woman – Hannah’s description – and it showed. Her hair was cut short and she looked like she was ready to run a marathon.
She opened the window. Fresh air and the sound of the river and the city traffic rushed in. ‘Better?’
Noelie nodded. Katrina pointed to something but it took Noelie a moment to see what it was. A heron was perched on a rock, revealed by the falling tide. The bird was the colour of the dark water. She was watching for food.
‘Perfectly camouflaged,’ he commented.
Katrina nodded. ‘I’m thinking of staying around, Noelie.’
‘No “That’s great news, Katrina” or “I’m so pleased to hear that, Katrina” or anything like that?’
He shook his head. ‘It’s nothing personal, Katrina.’
‘Of course it isn’t. You and Hannah were very good friends, I’ve always known that. Any friend of hers will always matter to me.’
‘You’re misunderstanding me, Noelie. I’m staying around because I want to help.’
‘With what you’re doing. Look, when you were in the Netherlands I went down to see Black Gary in Sherkin. I wanted to find out more about what had happened. I only got some of the details at Hannah’s funeral. You know what it was like, during those days. It was hard to focus on anything other than what we had all lost.’
Noelie remembered well. ‘You were great, Katrina. I really mean that. At least you were able to function.’
‘Look, I functioned because I needed to. But it’s hit me since. I’ve found this all very hard too. I need to get back to my job in Melbourne eventually, but they’ll give me time. I loved Hannah, Noelie. She meant a huge amount to me. She was special.’
Noelie didn’t look at Katrina even though he knew she was staring at him. He was doing his best to play down what had nearly been between Hannah and him. He no longer wanted to go there; it was just too sad.
‘Black Gary thinks it’s a good idea that I get involved.’
‘It isn’t, Katrina. It’s a terrible idea. None of us involved in this are safe, do you realise that? I don’t feel safe. Since I stepped off the fuckin’ plane in Cork last night, I haven’t felt safe. I’m already looking over my shoulder every other minute.’
‘I know danger just as much as you.’
Noelie shook his head disparagingly, finally meeting her eye. ‘I doubt that very much.’
Katrina looked annoyed and Noelie knew he was crossing a line. Still, if falling out with her would keep her safe then so be it. ‘You haven’t a clue actually. Not an idea.’
He got up and went to the kitchen counter to get Hannah’s old transistor radio – the thing practically ate batteries and emitted an incredible amount of static, but it also had sentimental value. Hannah had loved it because it was given to her by a favourite uncle; it had all the old radio station names written across the tuning band.
He set it down near the window, switched it on and turned up the volume. He spoke quietly. ‘Special Branch killed a man here in Cork, Jim Dalton, to protect the identity of a mole they were running inside Sinn Féin. Not exactly upstanding behaviour, right? Now, if I thought that that was all there was to this, that we were just dealing with Special Branch, I might say, “Fine, come along and help.” But Branch isn’t half the problem we face. Some sort of an abuse ring operated here in Cork in the sixties. They’ve murdered to protect their cover. Six times. Three men were butchered in 1970; in 1998, a former Branch officer who opposed them also went under – that was Meabh Sugrue’s dad; and last month, another ex-Branchman, Don Cronin, was taken out. A murder that I very nearly got done for, by the way. And finally, of course, they murdered Hannah. That’s what we’re dealing with. These people aren’t just dangerous, they’re lethal.’
‘I said I want to be involved.’
‘No,’ Noelie said, shaking his head.
‘Except it’s not up to you. Black Gary said that you have an arrangement, that you all decide together. That that’s how it is with you. I like that, it’s a good arrangement. So let’s ask the others. Let me put my case to them and if they still say no I’ll consider returning to Australia. Consider, mind you, is what I’m saying. I’m not saying I will.’
Noelie eyed Katrina again. ‘It’s true we’ve agreed to joint decision-making but every one of us has a veto too. I’ll use mine.’
‘Fuck you,’ said Katrina under her breath, standing up.
He watched her walk away. Hannah’s old bedroom was just beyond the kitchen area at the other end of the apartment. Katrina went in and slammed the door behind her.
Kevin Doyle is from Cork and works as a writer and creative writing teacher. He has been published in many literary journals, including Stinging Fly, The Cork Review, Southwords and The Cúirt Journal. He is the winner of a string of awards, including the Tipperary Short Story Award (1998) – first; Over The Edge New Writer Of The Year – shortlist; Hennessy Literary Awards (2011) – shortlist; Seán Ó Faoláin Prize (2013) – runner-up; Michael McLaverty Short Story Award (2016) – winner. In 2018, he published his first novel, To Keep A Bird Singing. He lives in Cork