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Novel set in BALLINA, County Mayo

15th March 2024

Wild Houses by Colin Barrett, novel set in Ballina, COUNTY MAYO

Novel set in BALLINA, County Mayo

Wild Houses by Colin Barrett is highly recommended and should be a big hit, if there’s any justice in the world. It’s an involving drama, beautifully written, with characters that just draw you in. The plot focuses on the drugs underworld in this quiet rural town. As such, it is gritty, but there’s a kindness and gentleness that pervades the story. Together with the lyrical descriptions of the town and surrounding countryside, it makes for an engaging and entertaining read.

It’s Salmon Festival time in Ballina, County Mayo. The town is filling with locals and tourists, keen to catch a fine fish from the River Moy and celebrate with a few drinks in the local pubs. The event is sure to keep barmaid Nicky busy but when her boyfriend, Doll, goes missing she has other things on her mind. Was it the argument that they had? Or is something more sinister keeping him away?

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But there’s more than just Doll missing in Ballina. Local drugs kingpin Mulrooney is determined that his dealer, Cillian, should repay him for drugs that he was supposed to be selling but has lost. It’s a serious debt and Mulrooney sets the Ferdia brothers to get it back. The consequence of the Ferdias’ actions is that the semi-recluse Dev is unwillingly drawn into their world of crime and violence.

Barrett’s writing style annoyed me initially – only because of his enthusiasm for adverbs, including the rarely observed ‘brittlely’, which made me pause. But the rhythm soon got going and I developed a huge enthusiasm for the jocular dialogue, in particular. Barrett uses plenty of regional phrases and the odd Irish word but there’s always enough context for non-Irish readers to understand. He focuses on the minutiae of each situation, making this a rich and colourful text.

For the most part the pace is slow but the mundanity and dark humour are sharply interspersed with tense incidents of life-threatening violence, to keep us on our toes. The author shows enormous sympathy for the plight of his characters, almost all of them young and with unfortunate past experiences. It’s as if he is saying, “Yes, these characters are flawed and they’ve been unlucky. They can be kind and considerate. Yes, you can feel sorry for them – but don’t imagine for a minute that they won’t hurt someone.”

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This was a book that I didn’t want to finish, but the last page – and Cillian’s deadline – was looming. All I can tell you is that you need to read it!

Sue for the TripFiction team

Catch our reviewer Sue on TwitterX @SueKelsoRyan and on IG @SueKelosRyan

Catch the author on TwitterX @ColinBarrett82 

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