The Blue Tango by Eoin McNamee

The Blue Tango


I was leant this book by Yvonne Cullen, with whom I am doing a fabulous ongoing writing and research course entitled ‘From History to Story.’

She recommended this book to me, because part of the novel that I am currently working on (if it comes to pass!) will be set in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles.’

However ‘The Blue Tango’ is set much earlier in 1952.  There is nothing like a conspiracy theory, on top of a murder, to intrigue the public and send them into a wild frenzy of speculation, gossip and morbid imaginings.

Eoin McNamee allows us to be a fly on the wall during this case of one of the most disturbing and horrific murders to take place in Northern Ireland.   Patricia Curran, a 19 year old from Whiteabbey, was brutally murdered on 13th November 1952.

This brilliant novel takes us through the narrative of those involved, and those affected by the murder in this small community.    Although this is a fictional novel, the case is based on fact and the characters described did exist, making this a fascinating read.

McNamee writes as the all knowing narrator, but although there is much reportage and fact finding, he writes in a uniquely lyrical style.  It is quite unlike any crime fiction novel I have ever read.

The author delves deep inside the insecurities of those investigating the murder, as we read of affairs, alcoholic lives and lives of quiet desperation.

He also portrays the complexities and vulnerabilities in each member of the Curran family; leading us down our own paths of speculation and wonder.

The portrayal of a family in crisis is superbly done. We read of a practically deranged mother, a father who is highly respected, but battling his own demons of gambling, and a brother who is religious in the extreme and trying to convert those he meets. At the centre of it all is Patricia Curran; the victim, who is described as independent and outgoing, kind and sensitive by those who know her well, yet by those who don’t she is considered a slut and an out of control evil marriage wrecker.   The reader is left to make up their own mind.

I found this novel intriguing, engrossing and rich in detail.  The writing is exquisite, and I can completely understand why it was long listed for the Man Booker Prize.

Eoin McNamee was born in Kilkeel, a small fishing town in County Down, Northern Ireland.  His research and descriptions throughout the book are meticulous.   The descriptions of ‘The Glen’ in Whiteabbey, where the Curran family lived are eerie and atmospheric:

“The Glen was not a comfortable house….Doris always felt that there were parts of the house where the sun had never penetrated… remained a place of cold parquet floors, unlit corridors.”

This is a dark, enthralling read that gets under your skin.  It makes you want to know more about the case and more about the family.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  McNamee has also written two follow up novels – The Blue Orchid and Blue is the Night, which standalone as novels, but are connected to The Blue Tango.

I can’t wait to read them!    If you have read this novel or perhaps the whole trilogy, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.  This is the first book on my list I discussed in January.  Only another six to go!

I read and reviewed The Revenant as well.  You can read my thoughts on it at



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