Marchpane's Reviews > Night Boat to Tangier

Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry
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bookshelves: 2019

Night Boat to Tangier is not a caper or a ‘crime’ novel, but a character-driven story that just happens to be set in a gangster milieu. Along the way there is tragedy, comedy and the peculiar durability of friendships formed in youth.

Irish crooks Maurice and Charlie, lifelong partners in drug smuggling, are hanging about the ferry terminal at Algeciras hoping to locate an estranged daughter. As they wait for long hours, the story unfolds of these two colourful, wizened-beyond-their-years gangsters over decades of shared criminal exploits, love and loss. It’s Maurice’s tale really, with Charlie playing a key, but secondary, part.

Barry takes some creative approaches here – in particular, one tense confrontation between Maurice and Charlie in a shebeen is related entirely from the POV of onlookers and eavesdroppers. We only get snippets of Maurice and Charlie’s conversation in what is essentially a dumbshow, and there’s palpable menace in the air. Placing the reader at a distance for such a climactic moment shouldn’t work but it does, brilliantly. It’s taut, suspenseful, cut-the-tension-with-a-knife stuff that culminates in a chilling act of violence. This single chapter is so good it would make for a 5-star short story in its own right.

Page by page, Barry’s writing skips with Irish vim and vigour; he’s equally adroit at the comedic and the poignant. The dialogue is snappy, banter between characters delightfully dry, the descriptive prose lyrical and melancholy.

The novel abounds with canny encapsulated images, like these:

‘The city ran a swarm of fast anchovy faces.’

‘their smiles are high and piratical; their jauntiness has a cutlass edge’

‘Charlie got up out of the bed, paced the room like a single human shriek made flesh and bone’

‘her sighs opened pockets of woe in the cold, bright air’


If I have a criticism it is only that I would have liked more of Charlie’s back story, and Cynthia (Maurice’s wife) is barely sketched too, despite her being at the centre of everything. Quibbles aside, Night Boat to Tangier was a thoroughly enjoyable read, with the added bonus of discovering a terrific new-to-me author. 4 stars.
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Reading Progress

December 27, 2018 – Shelved
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: 2019
December 27, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
July 24, 2019 – Started Reading
July 26, 2019 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-14 of 14 (14 new)

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message 2: by Bianca (new) - added it

Bianca I've never heard of him.


Trudie Oooh great - I am still tracking down a copy, hopefully soon


message 4: by Bianca (new) - added it

Bianca Fabulous review, Marchpane.


Marchpane Thanks Bianca!


message 6: by Tom (new) - added it

Tom Do read City of Bohane. Best contemp novel I’ve read in years. Eager to read this one, thanks to your enticing review.


message 7: by Jenny (new) - added it

Jenny Excellent review. Sounds like a lot of fun!


message 8: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Marchpane wrote: "The novel abounds with canny encapsulated images"

Great description!

Marchpane wrote: "If I have a criticism it is only that I would have liked more of Charlie’s back story, and Cynthia (Maurice’s wife) is barely sketched too, despite her being at the centre of everything."

Yes, I'm ready for Volume 2.


Marchpane Dan wrote: "Yes, I'm ready for Volume 2..."

Yes! Dan, wouldn't a Cynthia and Dilly sequel be fantastic?


message 10: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Marchpane wrote: "Yes! Dan, wouldn't a Cynthia and Dilly sequel be fantastic?"

And a film too, no doubt. But who's going to play Charlie Red, Moss, Cynthia, and Dilly?


message 11: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee How about Chris O'Dowd, Michael Fassbender, Clare Grogan and Florence Pugh?


message 12: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Lee wrote: "How about Chris O'Dowd, Michael Fassbender, Clare Grogan and Florence Pugh?"

Chris O’Dowd and Ralph Fiennes as Moss and Charlie Red?


message 13: by Lee (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lee Works for me. What's our budget?


message 14: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Lee wrote: "Works for me. What's our budget?"
:-)))


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