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A Thread of Violence

A Story of Truth, Invention, and Murder

Mark O'Connell author


Publisher:Granta Books

Published:6th Jun '24


Available for immediate dispatch.

A Thread of Violence cover

What does it mean to write about a killer? From an award-winning author comes a tale of a notorious double-murder, a political scandal, and a writer who found himself entangled in this strange, true story.

In 1982 Malcolm Macarthur, the wealthy heir to a small estate, found himself suddenly without money. The solution, he decided, was to rob a bank. To do this, he would need a gun and a car. In the process of procuring them, he killed two people, and the circumstances of his eventual arrest in the apartment of Ireland's Attorney General nearly brought down the government. The case remains one of the most shocking in Ireland's history. Mark O'Connell has long been haunted by the story of this brutal double murder. But in recent years this haunting has become mutual. When O'Connell sets out to unravel the mysteries still surrounding these horrific and inexplicable crimes, he tracks down Macarthur himself, now an elderly man living out his days in Dublin and reluctant to talk. As the two men circle one another, O'Connell is pushed into a confrontation with his own narrative: what does it mean to write about a murderer?

Like all great books, A Thread of Violence is the document of a great writer's obsession. Mark O'Connell draws the reader into a deeply engrossing story, and at the same time into a complex investigation of human brutality and of narrative writing itself. This is a superb and unforgettable book -- Sally Rooney
Phenomenal. It's very dark, necessarily, but I found it very rich. Macarthur seems as though he's being generous and open, but there's also this manipulative side of him. It's like a chess game between the two of them, which I found really compelling * Guardian *
No contemporary literary mind seems to me more subtle, perceptive or trustworthy... [An] eerie, philosophically probing book... A Thread of Violence instils the certitude not only that no one else could have written this book, but that no other need ever be written on the subject. It's a marvel of tact, attentiveness, and unclouded moral acuity * Guardian Book of the Week *
Ruminative, sophisticated, urgent and inky dark. O'Connell is one of the best non-fiction writers around... Biographers and writers of true crime, I suspect, will come to regard this as a classic. It is more than a niche masterwork, though; it is an exceptional piece of storytelling * The Sunday Times *
O'Connell writes with great humanity about Macarthur's victims... This is one of the really out-standing books of modern Ireland. It is a heady cocktail of reportage, detection, and reflection... A magnificent book * Irish Examiner *
Queasily brilliant... A clever and thoroughly disquieting book * FT *
One of the most disturbing things I've read for a good while... O'Connell is a gripping writer and some episodes have a scalding chill... Fantastically interesting * Daily Telegraph *
This is the single best book I read all summer -- Phillipe Sands
In the gallery of criminals who have fascinated writers, the elegant Malcolm Macarthur is one of the most enigmatic. And in the pantheon of writers fascinated by criminals, Mark O'Connell proves himself among the most brilliant. It is one of the boundaries that cut humanity in two: those who have killed someone, those who have not. O'Connell roams around this boundary, in this grey area, from which he has brought a fascinating narrative -- Emmanuel Carrère, author of The Adversary
In A Thread of Violence Mark O'Connell has investigated, with immense skill and insight, the mind of a double murderer, and in the process has shown the essential mysteriousness of such a mind-perhaps of any mind. The result is a beautifully wrought narrative that is at once frightening and thrilling. A masterly work -- John Banville
A ridiculously good book. The prose is apparently knowing and smooth; the subject is anything but. Malcolm Macarthur, an infamous, ageing double murderer, exists on every page, in almost every sentence, and yet recedes continually out of reach. The effect on the reader is like being in the eye of hurricane - terrifyingly calm - the moral vortex at the heart of breathtaking violence. It's like watching dangerous dance, a folie a deux, between a deeply skilled and humane writer and a murderer with a high regard for his own etiquette. You want to chuck it across the room and then run after it and then carry on reading, as gripped as you were before -- Sam Knight, author of The Premonitions Bureau
I read it at one sitting, so gripping was the account of Mark's conversations with a man who cannot call himself a murderer and yet killed two people utterly senselessly. The sensitivity of the work and the attention to language made this book one of the best of its kind and an example to others of how to do it -- Dr Gwen Adshead, Consultant forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist, and author of The Devil You Know
A masterful, haunting book by an author at the height of his powers. Mark O'Connell asks us how much we can ever understand about the darkness that resides in other people, and in ourselves -- Ed Caesar
Stays with you for weeks. The eerie, tenuous relationship between journalist and killer lives in the legacy of Janet Malcolm and Truman Capote -- Caitlin Doughty
A Thread of Violence is nourished by a powerful moral intelligence and an enormous curiosity. Mark O'Connell circles the inner life of the murderer Malcolm Macarthur with subtlety and forensic care... Complex and disturbing as well as intriguing and compelling -- Colm Toíbín
[A] masterpiece -- Christopher Eccleston
A vividly written account of the author's encounters with one of Ireland's most notorious murderers... The resulting picture of the killer is seen as if through a proverbial dark glass - and it's as chilling, in the end, as any Hitchcock film. A superb study of real-life crime and punishment, to say nothing of sociopathy in action * Kirkus *
Fascinating... Swirling together dogged reporting with questions about the media's coverage of crime, O'Connell manages a gripping account that casts a skeptical eye on its own genre * Publisher's Weekly *
Enthralling * Irish Post *
A remarkable book. If it begins in the genre of "true crime" - let's find the murderer and see if he will tell us what happened - it becomes an exploration of the human capacity to avoid truth... The book itself is haunting in its dissection of the mechanisms that allow human beings to dehumanise others -- Fintan O’Toole * The Irish Times *
Mark O'Connell's exhilarating A Thread of Violence [is] a probing portrait of one of the most notorious murderers in recent Irish history...[A] deft narrative... Brilliant and rigorously honest * New York Times Book Review *
Mark O'Connell has established himself as one of literary non-fiction's most compelling voices... Engrossing... A brilliant, unsettling and often darkly comic account of an attempt to ascertain truth from an individual * Sunday Independent *
Remarkable... An engrossing study, thick with moral ambiguity and startling detail, a rare volume that should appeal equally to the exacting creative nonfiction maven and the insatiable true-crime addict... * TLS *
Remarkable... The story is compellingly told, with the structure and pacing taut, the writing deft and limpid, all marked by an absorbing honesty and ethical concern... An outstanding achievement, and a worthy addition to literary attempts to understand the human propensity for evil * Guardian *
[A] gripping portrait... From this increasingly hopeless quest, thanks to his relentless curiosity, integrity and wonderful prose, O'Connell has created a superb book * Literary Review *
A very fine piece of writing; a thoughtful, self-doubting attempt to find out what drove Macarthur to such violence... Though A Thread of Violence is true crime, there's no whiff of sensation, no indulging of the lurid... An intriguing, light-on-its-feet exploration of a weird, dark crime * The Times *
O'Connell's new book, A Thread of Violence, is at once his most classically journalistic and his most personal, as well as his most ambitious and accomplished * New Statesman *
Despite many hours of startling interviews, it is the mind of the writer and not the murderer we are invited to explore... [O'Connell's] self-portrait is well executed * Spectator *
An outstanding book and certainly one that will leave a lasting impact on anyone who reads it * Kilkenny People *
Chilling... A stroke of genius * Prospect *
A stylish writer, O'Connell seeks to probe and analyse the various contradictions in Macarthur's account. But, almost more enthrallingly, the book details and interrogates the author's evolving personal relationship with the killer * Tablet *
A scrupulous and compelling account... For fans of Camus's The Stranger and Capote's In Cold Blood * Evening Standard *
The history is detailed and the writing - because O'Connell is such a very good writer - is impeccable * Westmeath Examiner *
O'Connell is, in many ways, the perfect person to attempt this unravelling... His investigation is acutely self-conscious... This makes for fascinating, unsettling reading, partly because it seems to award Macarthur the prestige he craves... O'Connell implores the reader to resist easy conclusions * Totally Dublin *
Mark O'Connell on conversations with the murderer, following his release from jail, recounted with spectacularly affecting brilliance and restraint * New Statesman *
[A] fascinating, thoughtful, unusual account of a life and a crime * The Times and Sunday Times *
An uncomfortable literary pageturner in which O'Connell forces us to look closely at our own cultural appetites. Comparisons to Janet Malcolm are apt * Independent *
Masterly * Irish Sunday Independent *
This well-known story is given fresh impetus by O'Connell's deft grappling with his own conscience through his interactions with Macarthur * RTE *

ISBN: 9781783787715

Dimensions: unknown

Weight: unknown

304 pages