Black Cat
Black Cat
Black Cat

The Devil I Know

by Claire Kilroy

A witty, captivating novel of greed and hubris set amid the Celtic Tiger and its ignominious downfall, by a writer who, Barbara Kingsolver has said, “packs a stunning worldly wisdom into her beautiful prose.”

  • Imprint Black Cat
  • Page Count 384
  • Publication Date February 04, 2014
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2237-7
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $18.00

About The Book

Claire Kilroy is a prodigious, award-winning young talent in Irish fiction, whose fresh, authoritative voice has garnered enthusiastic praise. In The Devil I Know, she delivers a delicious novel, a cautionary tale of financial excess set during the Irish property bubble.

Tristram St. Lawrence has not been home for years–ever since he missed his mother’s deathbed in favor of going on a bender, the thirteenth Earl of Howth is not welcome in the family castle. Now sober, he lives an itinerant life in self-imposed exile, and his main confidant is his sponsor, a mysterious businessman who Tristram knows only as M. Deauville.

One day, when his plane is unexpectedly diverted to Dublin, Tristram ends up where he started, and an old acquaintance, a bully from his school days who’s now making a name in construction, pitches to Tristram an ambitious and expensive development project. The trouble is, M. Deauville thinks it’s a good idea, and before Tristram knows it he’s settled in Howth under his father’s baleful gaze and is up to his neck in funding proposals, zoning approvals, and the personal life of his business partner.

A wry and timely skewering of a country, a man, and an entire international financial system descended into madness, The Devil I Know establishes Claire Kilroy as a vigorous and wonderful new talent.

Tags Literary


“Skewering the international financial system, with its rampant corruption and irrational exuberance, is familiar literary fodder. Yet in her savagely comic fourth novel, the Irish author Claire Kilroy does it with fresh energy, diving into the heady boom era known as the Celtic Tiger and its ignominious collapse. . . . Great fun.” —Carmela Ciuraru, The New York Times

“This young Irish writer packs a stunning worldly wisdom into her beautiful prose.” —Barbara Kingsolver, author of Flight Behavior

“[A] clever black satire.” —Laura Collins-Hughes, The Boston Globe

“A darkly hilarious fable about the Irish economic boom and its implosion . . . [I was] deeply impressed by its taut storytelling and elegant style. Kilroy manages to combine ancient motifs—the Faustian bargain, even hints of a vampire lineage—with the most accurate satire of nouveau riche property developers and crooked politicians. She scores bull’s eyes in every paragraph.” —Emma Donoghue, author of Room, in Chatelaine (Canada)

“A brilliant satire of Ireland’s boom and bust . . .The echo of [Myles na Gopaleen’s] mad genius is still recognizable in Claire Kilroy’s dark and fantastical comedy, The Devil I Know. . . . The greed and rampaging ambition of such avatars of ‘the new Ireland’ as Hickey are boundless and grotesquely funny. . . . Beyond the brilliantly phantasmagorical aspects of the novel, the dialog perfectly captures a Dublin manner of speech, the syntax and bullshittery. . . . The physical descriptions and their conceits are ingenious and of a distinctly Irish strain.” —Katherine A. Powers, The Arts Fuse

“Dark, funny and wonderful . . . A shot through the heart of the Irish boom.” —Anne Enright, Man Booker Prize-winning author of The Gathering

“Kilroy . . . finds in satire a medium capacious enough to allow her imagination its fullest sprawl. The plates of her plot spin ever more feverishly towards absurd calamity, but she balances perfectly the comic and the monstrous. . . . Just as impressive are the ways in which Kilroy weaves her fiction with the more outlandish realities of the Tiger years. . . . That is Kilroy’s knack here: the combination of the believable fiction with the unbelievable fact. Again and again, the documented past lends itself more than willingly to the service of the hyper-real, so that by the time the plot kicks into inevitable gothic overdrive it does so with an eerie believability, leaving us in a situation completely unrealistic and, for that, completely true.” —Andrew Fox, The Daily Beast

The Devil I Know is smart, funny and stylish, and bang up to the minute. Reading it, one squirms in appalled recognition of the extremes of greed and foolishness of our time, which Claire Kilroy portrays with devilish accuracy.” —John Banville, author of the Man Booker Prize-winning novel The Sea and Ancient Light

“Kilroy’s darkly comic caper draws the reader in immediately. . . Both a cautionary tale and a stylish satire, this is a diverting read.” —Publishers Weekly

“Cryptic and exuberant and angry and allegorical and satirical all at once . . . Kilroy’s darkly comic, clever novel keeps the reader engrossed and aghast, as chaos is piled on top of crisis, fortunes are made and lost in a trice, and the Irish madness of the times runs its course.” —Patricia Craig, The Independent (UK)

“In this carnivalesque allegory of Ireland’s property boom, Claire Kilroy presents a satiric danse macabre of brio and linguistic virtuosity. . . . Taps into the darkness of the finest Irish satire.” —Stevie Davies, The Guardian (UK)

“Claire Kilroy is brave—and talented—enough to take a fictional stab at portraying the kind of Ireland that created and destroyed the Celtic Tiger. . . . Put[s] one in mind of Patrick McCabe’s black comedies. . . . The Devil I Know is well written and fun.” —Vincent Boland, Financial Times (UK)

“A cautionary tale of greed and hubris set in Ireland at the height of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom.” —Shelf Awareness

“A perversely entertaining show of how easily men are corrupted by wealth . . . [Kilroy’s] prose flows irresistibly from page to page . . . A pleasure to read.” —Nick Brodie, Time Out (UK)

“In crisp prose and a cleverly structured narrative, Kilroy casts a sharply satiric eye on international finance gone awry. Smart fiction based on fact.” —Michele Leber, Booklist

“Kilroy takes delight in literary allusions and diabolical puns, but despite the humor there’s real fury in her portrayal of the casual greed, corruption and willful delusion that pervaded society “like the pox”, creating a belief in a kind of modern alchemy.” —Amber Pearson, Daily Mail (UK)

The Devil I Know is about as black a depiction of Ireland in its crazed Celtic Tiger heyday as you could imagine. Feelingly, elegantly written, it exerts the ever-tightening grip of a thriller. . . . An elegy to an Ireland despoiled and betrayed by those who led it into financial ruin, it is also a cautionary tale of the depths to which unbridled greed can take you . . . [with] the frisson and magnetic force of a compelling and dangerously unreliable narrator. . . . [A] searing, savage novel. Kilroy . . . is flinty sharp in her observations about her country and those who sold it short.” —Rosemary Goring, Herald Scotland (UK)

The Devil I Know focuses on the Irish property boom (and bust) and is, therefore, a tale of our time: a story of lavish greed and selfishness; soullessness and economic devastation. . . . It would be deeply depressing without Claire Kilroy’s joyously mad prose. Her writing hops over the darkness in lively, lyrical, sometimes vitriolic leaps.” —Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times (UK)

“A well paced and well told cautionary tale, a page-turner with lots of droll moments as the author skewers the moral mindset that both created the Celtic Tiger and then brought it to its knees.” —John Boland, Irish Independent (UK)

“Kilroy’s almost exclusively male cast is well-etched, and she has a dead eye for shriveling detail and truth-telling.” —Christina Hunt Mahony, Irish Times (UK)

The Devil I Know is a public novel, even a political novel, about how Ireland went from hyperventilating affluence to agog beggary . . . Kilroy provides some of the most stunningly sly and wry writing being offered at the moment. One moment she is lyrical . . . The next she is brilliantly satirical.” —Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday (UK)

“One of Ireland’s best young novelists . . . Ambitious, satirical and Gothic.” —Sue Leonard, Irish Examiner (UK)


Finalist for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award


Hickey retrieved one of the lobster pots. “I caught these lads meself,” he told his guests. “Thought we’d give them a lash on the Barbie!” He lifted out a lobster and threw it on the grill, holding it down with his tongs when it struggled to escape.

“Shouldn’t you boil it first?” one of the wives wondered.

“Kyle, give us another one,” Hickey instructed his son, and the kid took out a second lobster and deposited it on the hot coals himself, followed by a third and then a fourth. Hickey cupped the back of his head while Kyle watched the lobsters flail. When a lobster made it to the edge of the grill, Hickey set it back in the middle. Then the elastic band securing one of the lobster’s claws melted and its pincers sprang open. The lobster snapped at Hickey when he tried to tackle it with his tongs.

“En garde!” Hickey cried, but he couldn’t access the lobster’s torso and the creature made it over the edge.

It landed on the paving and dragged itself towards shelter.

“Da!” the kid shouted, pointing at the grill.

All the elastic bands had melted and the remaining lobsters were making a break for it. The second one dropped onto the paving, then the third. That’s when the Viking stepped in. He stamped on each lobster with his heel then threw him or her back on the grill, bellies up. Their various pairs of legs extended and retracted until they finally expired.