From southlondonbookblog.ie, etc.
Michael Russell's début novel is a polished and highly enjoyable crime thriller that captures the profound challenges that faced Irish society as the Free State evolved towards the Republic during the 1930s. We're consistently reminded of distinct direction that Ireland under De Valera tried to take - ploughing a lonely furrow with avowed levels of independence and autarky which had the effect of creating a society that in struggling with the legacy of the Civil War and Church vs State tensions inhabits a place that when viewed from contemporary perspectives feels unappetising. The concept of 'otherness' and intolerance is central to the book. It captures the rarities in a Catholic dominated society, not taking the easy route of talking about the remnants of the Anglo-Irish ascendency, but looking at the rarer Jewish, gay, and immigrant communities, and the levels of both tacit and overt intolerance to which they were exposed. This is fitting though, because as is accurately pointed out, "[a]bsence was in Jewish blood the same way it was in the blood of the Irish". Much is a similar way to Alan Furst and John Lawton, "The City of Shadows" captures the small human elements in the emerging tragedy of the mid-20th century; individuals striving to find some light in surroundings that can often feel almost overwhelmingly dark. Through the characters of Stefan Gillespie and Hannah Rosen the time and place are brought to life in everyday lives touched by events in the wider world, in a fast-moving, poignant adventure of page-turning pace.