Aloysius Tempo by Jason Johnson

2 Mins read
Aloysius Tempo

Aloysius Tempo was brought up hard. His mother, uncertain of which side of the Irish political divide his father came from, abandoned him a few days after his birth. She left him beside a stream, his cradle a plastic beer crate. From that inauspicious entry into the world, things went steadily downhill. Moved from orphanage to orphanage, the teenage Aloysius earned his stripes at the hands of a succession of sadistic and perverted parish priests. One day he snapped. After using a gilded statue of Christ to battering a priestly abuser to death, Aloysius was spirited away, and the wider world knew only that the unfortunate Father Barry had been cruelly killed by a burglar. The authorities realised that the truth would benefit no-one in this case.

Years later, Aloysius has carved out for himself a unique reputation. For a fee, he will kill anyone and disguise the murder as an unfortunate accident. He advertises only where Google fears to tread, and then only with a modest postage-stamp sized panel on the Dark Web’s version of local services. He lives unnoticed and unheralded in a cheap room above an auto repair shop in Amsterdam. His only friend is a sweet-natured transexual called Tall Marianne.

Life changes irrevocably for Aloysius when he’s summoned to Dublin to meet an unlikely pair of clients. Martin is a garrulous and glib civil servant whose boss Imelda is an apparently disorganised government functionary just months away from her pension. All is not what it seems and after a lengthy courtship Aloysius succumbs to their charms and agrees to eliminate four people who have thus far evaded the justice system, but whose deaths would make the Irish people feel better about themselves during the centenary commemorations of the 1916 Easter Rising.

The first two names on the list – an unscrupulous loan shark, and a predatory priest – are despatched in the twinkling of an eye. But then, things get complicated. A disruptive female politician is more than she seems to be, and Aloysius’ final target turns the hitman’s world on its head. He realises that the game is bigger than he imagined. With the all-seeing, all-knowing CIA an unwelcome guest at the feast, Aloysius Tempo  is faced with the unpalatable fact that, for the first time in his career, he is out of his depth.

This is the bleakest book I’ve seen in a long time. It definitely echoes Derek Raymond’s Factory novels in that there are moments of dark poetry shining through the nihilism. On a purely technical level, it is writing of very high quality, beautifully observed and full of clear, cold cruelty. Initially it’s intriguing that Tempo’s assignments are triggered by the centenary commemorations of Easter 1916, but this is dealt with in just a couple of sentences and plays no real part in the story, unless we’re meant to take it as a very subtle metaphor.

Aloysius Tempo is not an easy character to empathise with. He is certainly a something-o-path. Socio in that his contempt for the world has certainly been shaped by his cruel upbringing, but psycho in that he kills only after lengthy and exhaustive planning. At the end of the book, the author seems to be giving us the choice as to whether Tempo lives or dies. Despite the minor flaws in this book, I will look forward to the return of this strangely attractive hero.

You can read an interview with the author on the Irish Times website, or discover more hitman crime fiction here. And, we have more Irish crime fiction here.

Liberties Press

CFL Rating: 4 Stars

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