The Holy City

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The Holy City
By Patrick McCabe
Bloomsbury, £12.99, 212 pages
FT Bookshop price: £10.39

Patrick McCabe’s disturbing tales have long been told by damaged, delusional narrators, from 1992’s The Butcher Boy to 2007’s Winterwood. His ninth novel The Holy City, a portrait of an ageing dandy in small town Ireland, does not stray from past form.

Chris McCool, 67, lives with his younger Croatian girlfriend. He describes himself as a debonair playboy who embraces 21st-century “Celtic Tiger” Ireland despite his apparent nostalgia for his 1960s youth. At first, there is something comical about Chris. It’s hard to take a man seriously who says: “Kinky, Pops, if that’s your bag!” or “Yeah, crazy, groove-thangs!” In fits and starts, however, he confesses the reality of his past. A chilling story of obsession, repressed homosexuality, religious fervour, violence and mental ill health emerges. Soon Chris is anything but amusing.

The writing is not quite up to the macabre glory of some of McCabe’s best work, but is still vividly haunting at times.

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