The Wrong Kind of Blood
Review by Sheila Merritt
In this grim, gritty, and gripping first novel, Declan Hughes takes the reader on a journey to Ireland. His protagonist, private detective Ed Loy, returns to his home country from L.A. to attend his mother’s funeral. What ensues includes startling personal revelations, as the hardboiled tale leads a path to corruption and murder.
“The wrong kind of blood” of the title has several meanings. One deals with the odd blood type that led to the death of Loy’s two year old daughter. Another addresses the “sins of the father” (or mother) as a reason for some characters’ actions. Perhaps the most profound reference has to do with a bit of both: biology and environment each shape an individual’s life.
The story, while fairly standard noir, is elevated by Hughes’ prose. His experience as a playwright is evident in setting scenes that come vibrantly to life, punctuated by excellent dialogue. Despite the obvious private eye cliches: meeting and bedding a seductive client, getting beaten up multiple times, dealing with thugs and corrupt people in powerful positions, the book rivets the reader with its description and pathos.
One feels for Loy who regards himself as a stranger in his own land. He views Los Angeles as a haven from memory, a place where he can distance himself from the father who abandoned him and his mother many years before. “In L.A., I had simply put him from my mind, dead or alive. That’s what L.A. is for, to forget your past.”
Once returning to Ireland, however, the past returns with a vengeance. Corpses are discovered, buried secrets come forward, and events of the past continue to dictate the course of the future. The seductive client meets a predictable end because of what has been, literally and figuratively, unearthed. Loy mourns her in a sensory and sensitive way: “I could still smell her on my fingers, on my arms; her scent clung to me like grief.”
The Wrong Kind of Blood is not, in the conventional sense, a horror novel. It does, however, have a high body count, plenty of violence, and, as the title indicates, much to keep the sanguinary sort of reader happy. It packs a punch to the gut, and leaves a hole in the heart.