Wednesday 18 April 2018



I killed the boy . . .

Jig loves football and his dog, hates school, misses his dead granda and knows to lie low when his ma's blitzed on the vodka.

He's just an ordinary boy on the brutal streets alongside Dublin's Grand Canal. Streets that are ruled by Ghost and his crew. And now Ghost inked, vicious, unprincipled has a job for Jig.

A job that no one can afford to go wrong not the gangs, the police, the locals, and least of all not Jig.

Fast-paced, compelling and expertly plotted, BLACK WATER introduces a powerful new voice in contemporary crime fiction.


‘Shocking and compulsive, Black Water offers a grittily realistic insight into the causes and consequences of inner-city drug crime – think The Wire set in Dublin.’ – BRIAN MCGILLOWAY, NYT bestselling author of Little Girl Lost

‘O’Keeffe pulls you into the dark underbelly of Dublin city with well-drawn characters, chilling dexterity and unflinching truth – harsh, tender, steely and authentic.’ – LOUISE PHILLIPS, author of The Game Changer

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve read this year and even at this early stage a definite contender for one of my top reads of 2018. Admittedly, I do have a bias towards Dublin set novels - my family all hail from there and I was born there, albeit more than half a century ago.

In Black Water, author Cormac O’Keeffe serves up a tale of inner-city strife in Dublin’s not so fair city. Jig is a ten year boy, teetering on the precipice of involvement with the local drugs gang. A little errand run on behalf of Ghost, one of the king-pins in the Canal Street gang has dramatic repercussions when the target of his message – an elderly woman dies on receipt. Jig, manipulated and coerced by Ghost now has to work off his debt. Debt? WTF!

In the following pages, we see the effects of this event on the community through the eyes of Jig, his football coach, different elements within the Gardai Siochana (Irish police), a community worker, a priest and others including the gang’s top dog. A further dramatic event occurs which heightens tension on the streets.

Brian McGilloway makes a comparison regarding this book – think The Wire set in Dublin – which sums this up perfectly….. drug gangs, junkies, feckless parenting, feral teenagers, police mistrust, Republican activism (ok you might not find that in Baltimore), a broken community, a decline in the influence and authority of the church, police factions competing with each other and jockeying for power and influence, informers and bugs, a code of silence and a look the other way mentality.

The good guys – the authorities don’t all wear white hats with elements within the police service not above manipulating and bending people in much the same way as the targets (the Canal Street gang and a local Republican group) they are trying to take down use people.

Personal elements within the book, made events seem very real and plausible. Jig has a crap home life. His mother and father ignore him. If he does attract their attention it’s to inflict a verbal or physical assault. His brother, Maggot a few years older is already involved in the local gang and has had his run-ins with the police. His sister cares for him but is a recovering addict herself. His main preoccupation are his dog (passed onto him by his much loved and missed granda) and his football. Jig’s a gifted player and one possible escape from a life and a community bereft of hope or opportunity is through his sport. But not if the gang get their clutches into him.

Brutal, hard-hitting, impressive, realistic, and a tad depressing. If this is a reflection of life in Dublin in the 21st Century, I’m glad my dad didn’t live to see it.

5 from 5

Black Water is Cormac O’Keeffe’s debut novel (hard to believe really). It is released tomorrow.

He has his website here

Read in April, 2018
Published – 2018
Page count – 320
Source – review copy from Black and White Publishing (thanks Lina)
Format – trade paperback


  1. This really sounds power-packed, Col. I like books set in Dublin, too, so I can see the appeal of the setting. And I find it interesting the different ways authors portray young people who aren't little, but aren't quite teens yet. Glad you enjoyed this.

    1. Cheers Margot. I was kind of reminded of Gene Kerrigan when reading it.

  2. This might be too gritty for me but it does sound good.

    1. Possibly, there are some tough scenes in this one.

  3. Sounds like a tough read, Col. But on your recommendation, it goes on the list.

    1. I hope you like it if you give it a whirl. It does have a couple of hard scenes which you may need a strong constitution for.

  4. I too like a Dublin setting, and 5 out of 5 is always a recommendation - it sounds violent and a touch out of my comfort zone, but you never know.

    1. I'd be curious if you tried it to get your reaction. It is violent though.