Review | Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies

An accidental murder kicks off a crime fuelled chain of events that is both hilarious and heart breaking in Lisa McInerney’s roaring debut. At the centre of the interweaving narratives is the tough but troubled teenager Ryan Cusack. The Glorious Heresies is not for the faint of heart but it’s a hell of a good time.

Ryan Cusack is fifteen years old, fresh off losing his virginity and about to submerge himself in crime. Surrounded by negative influences from his abusive father Tony to lurky neighbour Tara Duane and the puppet master of them all, his thug boss J. P Phelan, a man with grand ambitions for his apprentice. It’s a motley crew of lost souls and there’s a thrilling, Gonzo like pace that blusters through the characters as they rush to make deals, rush to come up and struggle to stay down in Cork.

There were a few pages where I doubted if it were for me. I can do dark. I can do violent. But I find grim hard to stomach. I worried early on, despite McInerney’s obvious skill, if I would have anyone or anything to root for. Luckily, it is the jagged vulnerability of Ryan as he bounces down a rabbit hole of crime that convinced me to keep going, and boy was it worth it.

Ryan Cusack made my heart ache. I rooted for him desperately. McInerney‘s chapters are not bookended periods of time, they are snap shots of the characters’ experience and the ones that she draws of Ryan’s tainted youth are bang on the money. It’s the simple scenes that stand out, the easy back and forth of not just lust but real friendship between Ryan and Karine as he humours her interest in reality TV. Or the desperation of Tony, Ryan’s father, who’s so excited to have his son out of jail that he drunkenly scrubs the house but forgets to collect Ryan. There’s also a so-vivid-it’s-nauseating description of a drug fuelled Electric Picnic that made me want to never don wellies again. A poignancy and compassion in McInerney’s writing keeps the reader from despairing.


All in all, it’s a rollicking debut that is horrifying and hysterical in equal turns. McInerney has since released her follow up novel The Blood Miracles, the second slice of what’s expected to be a trilogy. Word also has it The Glorious Heresies is being made into a TV show by international production company Fifty Fathoms with McInerney at the writing helm, naturally. One thing’s for sure, McInerney is one to watch.

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