As a teenager Noel Byrne was one of the crowd until he was plucked out for no discernible reason to be Johnny Ferrari’s best friend. Johnny was the charismatic son of a Dublin fish and chip millionaire and the life and soul of any party. After school, Byrne headed to university, but continued to hang out with Ferrari, who was making a name for himself by organising raves and parties across the city. Over time they drifted apart, with Byrne using some of the confidence he gained from being in Ferrari’s shadow to become a television reporter with the national broadcaster covering business affairs. With the impending collapse of Celtic Tiger economy, the two boyhood friends meet-up again. Only this time Johnny seems to have gone off the rails having kidnapped a former boy-band star. Soon, Noel finds himself entangled in a conspiracy to manipulate the share price of Hiberbank, which is either on the verge of collapse or about to bought by investors. At the same time, Johnny’s sister Maria has also re-entered Byrne’s life, he’s being forced to take part in a TV reality show, and his parents are about to make a financial decision that will ruin them. Caught between doing serious time for a crime he hasn’t committed or shafting the entire nation, and unsure who he can turn to for help, Byrne is left dazed and floundering. Whichever he looks at it, he appears to be screwed.
Keep Away From Those Ferraris is a satire set at the tail end of the Celtic Tiger. Whilst the plot is quite outlandish it works extremely well because the boom then bust in Ireland was so outlandish. Pat Fitzpatrick captures the sense of disbelief, disillusionment, denial, panic, greed, dirty dealing, and the way in which the collapse was portrayed by a breathless media unsure as to what was happening. He’s especially good at illustrating how the wealthy elite sought to protect their status through dodgy deals concerning failed banks. There’s all kinds of thinly veiled reference points for anyone familiar with Irish culture and the crash, including the golden circle, Anglo, and RTE. In my view there’s very little to fault - the plot is very nicely worked with some good twists and observational asides, the characterisation is spot on with even the ‘hero’ being somewhat of a cad, the contextualisation with respect to the Irish crash and associated shenanigans is excellent, the black humour and wit is genuinely funny, and the writing is engaging. The only thing I didn't think worked was the title and cover, neither of which is really reflective of the book's style or themes and wouldn't ordinarily have compelled me to try it - so if you have similar feelings set them aside and cut to the content. I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.