Here we go, here we go – Ryan Cusack’s back! Not just Ryan, though: Karine, Natalie, Georgie, Maureen, even Tara Duane’s young one, Mel/Linda is lining up to have her say, not to mention Tony and Kelly Cusack and Jimmy Phelan, and Jackie and Gary D’Arcy…
If none of this is ringing any bells, you’d want to hold up and rewind. The Rules of Revelation is the third (and we think, final) instalment in McInerney’s Cork series, a trilogy that began with the Bailey’s Prize and the young motherless Ryan, son of the hapless and feckless Tony, hooking up with Karine D’Arcy, only to run afoul, personally of Tara Duane and, professionally, of Jimmy Phelan. Ryan, already at fourteen a ‘baby dealer’, selling pills and coke to all takers, gets hauled deeper into JP’s dodgy underworld, while his mishandling by Tara sends him off into a spiral of self-destruction (partnered to a matching one of Karine-destruction). The second book saw Ryan and his co-conspirator, Natalie Grogan, eventually launder their way (more or less) free of JP’s clutches and flee to Italy, while Karine, pregnant with Ryan’s child, stayed behind in Cork. Now, in The Rules of Revelation, we pick up the threads a couple of years later: little Diarmuid is a toddler, and Ryan, who’s in the meantime made it to Berlin and Korea thanks to Natalie’s finagling of JP’s shipping profits, is reinventing himself as a musician. He’s made an E.P. over the internet with his cousin Joseph, a pal called Izzy who cameoed in an earlier book, and a handful of other mates, and now he’s coming home to record a proper album – hoping that J.P. won’t cotton on and have him shot for sticking his head over the parapet. What about the others? Karine’s trying to work out whether or not she’s right to go seeking after Ryan again; Georgie, after noting Ryan’s online success, is fuming that he might get to come good while she’s still stuck in hiding; Mel, Tara’s reinvented child, has just found out a version of what her mother might have done; Maureen, as ever, is sticking her nose in, while decrying the state of the nation; and Natalie’s pulling all the strings. Will Ryan actually get clear of his past? Will he sort his shit out with Karine? Will Natalie ever fuck off? Will Mel get her identity worked out? Will Maureen set everyone – particularly J.P. – straight? Ah, you’ll have to read it to find out.
As ever, McInerney’s narrative gallops along faster than Shergar, but in terms of plot, it’s packing a lot less in than, in particular, its immediate predecessor, The Blood Miracles. What we’ve got here isn’t so much the next instalment of Ryan’s goings-on, but the long-awaited moment of reckoning: The Rules of Revelation is where all the complications of the previous two books catch up with their instigators. It’s not about action, but effect and affect: these characters, after all their game-playing, lying and conniving, are thoroughly messed up, and here’s where they have to face up to that. Both Ryan and Mel have to work out how to finally deal with what happened with Tara; Georgie’s got to determine if her entire life has been a function of a gun to her head; Maureen needs to find a way to live in an Ireland that’s maybe not as much of a male place as she’s always reckoned. Ryan, son of Tony, needs to work out how to be a dad; Karine needs to work out how to be herself. McInerney is, as ever, masterful in her command of the interior monologue, and when we’re looking at a clutch of hyper-anxious people like this – the paranoid ex-dealers, the terrified former sex worker, the gender-ambivalent soul-searching child of, well, a delusional rapist – it makes for a text as absorbing and all-consuming as it is stylish. The dialogue beats any rapid-fire take-down you’d find in an Irish bar; Cork city gets its due as the Real Capital; ends you’d forgotten might be loose are tied up tight.
Any Cop?: If you haven’t already tried her writing on for size, start with The Glorious Heresies and work your way up. This is storytelling as its dizzying finest – comedy, tragedy, social commentary and every shade in between.