Dark and funny, tough and confrontational, lyrical and even poetic in places, quintessentially Irish, DEAD I WELL MAY BE is the first in a series of books featuring Michael Forsythe, a young Irish man with a flair for danger, drinking, and fighting his way out of impossible situations.
McKinty writes in a style that's easy to associate with noir Irish writing, a sort of a stream of consciousness thing, that alternates between incredibly compelling and making the reader want to hide under the bed blankets. Michael is a young Irish man, older and wiser than his age would make you expect, at the same time incredibly naive and almost unbelievable at points, DEAD I WELL MAY BE is the story of how he get's himself into a no-win position. Young, fearless, clever, stupid and naive, and despite not really wanting to go, Michael heads to America to work for crime boss Darkey White. Well he professes he doesn't want to go, but the reader can easily suspect that the adventure is a great lure for a young man like Michael. In the same way that an affair with Darkey's girlfriend Bridget has that frisson of danger. Darkey, on the other hand, is more ruthless about these things, and his discovery of the affair leads to a life and death struggle in the Mexican prison system.
This is the first book in the series, and I have read a later one already, so that probably helped a little in knowing where this story is heading and finding out a lot more about how the characters tick. Michael is a tricky character to get a handle on in this book - wise and knowledgeable seemingly beyond his years and life experience, there's an awful lot of bravado about Michael which might catch some readers - as it does seem to bamboozle some of the other characters in the book. Darkey's more of a bit part in this book, working often through intermediaries, it does create a level of menace about the man that's quite disturbing. Bridget almost seems like the female version of Michael, she's as addicted to risk as Michael seems to be.
All in all, DEAD I WELL MAY BE is the start of a series of books, and you have to read it making a little allowance for ongoing character development in the following books. You may also find that the style of the prose, the internal monologues and rants of Michael, in particular, seem a little self-indulgent at points. You may even find the total lack of a supposed moral compass somewhat offputting, but then this is Irish noir at it's brutal best.
To be perfectly honest, there were points in the book where I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Didn't worry me - loved the ride.
The books in the Michael Forsythe series are:
Dead I Well May Be (2003)
The Dead Yard (2006)
The Bloomsday Dead (2007)