Meet the first novel by a Galway writer who blogs about life on a council estate under a name so forceful I can't repeat it in a family newspaper. Meet also a terrific reading experience.
A man in a grubby jumper and frayed tracksuit pants lies with his head stoved in, on the kitchen floor of a city tenement. The unintended, unprofessional death starts a series of meltdowns in Cork's criminal underworld.
It also starts our acquaintance with a catalogue of figures drifting or smouldering below the radar of respectable life, in an Ireland wallowing through the trough of economic recession.
There's Ryan, the school drug dealer, mother dead, father a boozy wreck. Maureen, "face half-way to her ankles". Jimmy, captain of various illicit industries, but hard-pressed to handle the fact that his Mum has just killed someone with a rock carrying an image of the Virgin Mary. Deirdre, as mercenary as she's intellectually challenged. Marvellously many more.
Over the half-decade of the narrative, they trace not so much character arcs as character (and intermittently caricature) car-wrecks, amid the dislocation of a society where "the world had burst its banks and no one had anything in common with anyone any more".
It brings second-rate rage and revenge, lethal force, casual carnage, arson, drugs and booze, violence both domestic and professional. Yes, another catalogue.
Conventional society is either irrelevant or ineffectually intrusive. Therapists, police, school principal, a priest in the confessional: each of them might as well be speaking Swahili for all the meaning they have to our damaged protagonists.
Nor is "The Man Above" any help; the Catholic Church gets a quick kicking.
A bunch of earnest evangelicals also feature, in an inept sort of way. One of them uses a Bible to chop up her cocaine. Indeed, nothing is sacrosanct in this novel.
So it's potentially trendy black comedy, but full of untrendy grey characters. It could become cliched, if it weren't for the fact that McInerney is so deeply involved with her people.
They love as well as ruin. They regret and yearn; they're nearly all desperately lonely. Physical brutality is counterpointed by emotional vulnerability.
The Glorious Heresies crackles with energy and crunches with violence. At the same time, it lilts with rhythm and rhetoric. Just occasionally, it suffers from what I'll dare call the Irish Literary Problem, where language threatens to submerge subject.
McInerney's success comes partly from the feeling that the book could blow up in her and your face at any moment. It doesn't. It stays a stampede till its tentatively redemptive end.
An accomplishment and a discovery - if unlikely to be endorsed by Tourism Ireland.
The Glorious Heresies
by Lisa McInerney
(John Murray $34.99)
David Hill is a Taranaki writer.