Review: The Blood Miracles by Lisa McInerney

Premise: readers of McInerney’s debut, The Glorious Heresies, will remember Ryan, teen drug dealer with the tempestuous relationship with Karine. Ryan returns here, sinking deeper into the dark underbelly of Cork’s criminal scene. And playing the piano.

Thoughts: the follow-up to the Bailey’s Prize-winning The Glorious Heresies leaves behind the different narrative strands of the first book to focus on Ryan, the young, troubled drug dealer. Other characters from McInerney’s debut do pop up, so it’s helpful to flick through that book in advance as a refresher. It’s also an enjoyable tie to the first book, particularly when Maureen reappears; the world depicted here isn’t exactly charming, but Maureen definitely is. There are added complications; Ryan’s difficult relationship with his father remains a problem, and his efforts to diversify into club culture prove trickier than he expected. There’s the added complication of a break-up with childhood sweetheart Karine and a new liaison with Natalie. If Ryan was a real person, I would strongly advise him to be seeking fewer issues in his life rather than more, but I suppose that would make for a far less interesting book.

As a big fan of McInerney's first book, I was not disappointed by The Blood Miracles. The gritty world she set up in the first book is maintained here, showing the seedy underbelly of Cork and its criminal population. It's not a world you'd particularly want to live in, but it's absorbing to read about. I really like McInerney's writing style; it's as unflinching here as it was in her first book and, as someone whose reading doesn't usually include this kind of story or setting, I find it really refreshing and vibrant.

Would she mind if he detailed reality? It's about moving around all day, talking shite and throwing shapes at those in the same boat but knowing it's all chestnuts and mottos and platitudes, like you're working off a script. It's meaningless but you're disassociated and with disassociation comes hangovers, a bad diet, a smoker's cough. It's a false and empty function and there's no point to it, no comfort in it; you're a boil on the arse of your own country. So you deflect reality with notions like brotherhood, loyalty, hierarchy. Stupid dick-clutching fantasies. Stories Natalie wants to hear.
This is not part of Ryan. It's something Ryan does to keep the wolf from the door, even though the bears are inside picking their teeth by the fire.

As with The Glorious Heresies, there's a real sense of menace pervading The Blood Miracles. Subject to the violent whims of the bosses of the criminal underworld, the sense of danger Ryan lives with is palpable; I actually felt quite stressed reading this. It's not like Ryan's a particularly loveable character, but those around him are so unpleasant it's hard not to root for him.

In Conclusion: I definitely recommend this to fans of The Glorious Heresies and, if you haven't got to that book yet, you absolutely should. McInerney has such a gritty and refreshing style; it's brutal and at times alarming and disturbing, in a way that marks her out as a really unique voice. The Blood Miracles is an excellent follow-up to a superb debut; I can't wait to see what she writes next.

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