book cover of Sad Bastard
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Sad Bastard

(1998)
A novel by

 
 
Dublin policeman Pat Coyne was the eponymous Headbanger of Hugo Hamilton's last novel. He is now the Sad Bastard of this one. The fiercely moral and frighteningly confused Coyne was dubbed "the Irish Dirty Harry" as he took on the lowlife of Dublin's underworld. But now, after five months on sick leave following a fire, he is reduced to sitting alone at a bar ordering gin and tonics on the off chance that his estranged wife might walk in and rescue him. Battalions of psychologists and healers are set to work on his troubled psyche, but "put it this way", muses the narrator: "It was a waste of time trying to bring Coyne back to normal. He had never been normal in the first place, and was hardly going to fit into the parameters of textbook sanity at this point." So in the absence of reflective calm, he again chooses chaotic action and plunges into the uncertainties and dangers of modern Ireland. The lively plot involves Coyne's son in some dangerous dock-side shenanigans and a scam to bring into the country illegal immigrants from Romania. But the real subject is Ireland, and the rapid process of changes it is undergoing, which leaves Coyne, as ever, to ruminate sadly that "maybe Ireland was not a real place but a country that existed only in the imagination, or in the songs of emigrants." --Nick Wroe

Genre: Mystery

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