Sceptre / Lir £10.99 stg
Robert Cremins' debut 'A Sort of Homecoming' chronicled the misadventures of a wandering wastrel who returns to Dublin after blowing an inheritance. This follow-up finds eminently responsible central character Peter Dagg going in the opposite direction - leaving the comfort of Dublin's muesli belt for a rescue mission to Texas.
Dagg, an up and coming junior counsel, is soon to be married to Suzette, the daughter of disgraced, tribunal-trauma'd politician Jerry. His legal career may pale alongside the fact that he has wooed Suzette, but Dagg is also aware that he's marrying into the D4 equivalent of a soap opera.
Jerry has colon cancer and has escaped a jail sentence twice; his wife Nessa, Ireland's first celebrity TV cook, developed a fondness for the sauce and died in exile in Paris, after which her son, John Paul, gave two fingers to his remaining family, went to Texas and married an auto heiress called Kristen.
As Suzette's big day in white won't be complete without reconciliation between father and son, a reluctant Dagg agrees to fly to the city of Maverick to do her bidding. Once there however, he begins to wonder if John Paul had the right idea all along...
Cremins' focuses on the disappointments of family life and how the ones you love are always the ones to let you down, but that sense of regret is nothing compared to what the reader feels by the time they've reached page 214 of his book. The first 30 pages are exquisite as the author sets Dagg up for his mission, and while the targets of his Dublin-based invective may be sitting (restaurants run by doubled barrelled chefs on the eastern fringe of Temple Bar, pubs frequented by legal bods with names like Swarbrigg) he takes the shots well.
Once Dagg gets sweaty under a Deep South sun however the book loses much of its sparkle, becoming an exercise in dining room drama and closing with a crisis which owes more to reruns of Dallas than anything approaching original thought. It's as if the heat got to Cremins as much as Dagg.
The author lives in Texas and has fallen so head over heels with the place that endless tracts on cars, freeways lanes and restaurants, take the place of character development. By the close you still haven't warmed to Dagg, you're no wiser about Kristen and as for John Paul, well it's hard to figure out why anyone would want to visit him never mind bring him back.
'Send in the Devils' is not without humour and Cremins' style is crisp, but you can't help wondering if he would have better served the reader by locating the whole story in Dublin. He may argue that he'd done Dublin to death in ''Homecoming' but that book came out over three years ago, there's plenty more ammunition. Only Cremins' depiction of his native city saves this book from a lone star state.