“There is an air of desolation about the place.”
WWI has recently ended but Ireland is still fighting. A Civil War rages in Ireland, and it is an escalating and bloody battle. The action in this novel takes place after the first infamous ‘Bloody Sunday‘.
There is an IRA ambush outside the manor house owned by the Prendeville’s. In a strange turn of events, Maud Prendeville is murdered – though the IRA claim they left her alive.
Captain Tom Harkin, a Catholic IRA intelligence officer, is Maud’s former fiancée. He goes to Kilcolgan House to investigate her death under the guise of his position as a life insurance investigator. Harkin, a former army Captain, is suffering from shell shock from his time overseas, in particular Passchendaele. The gloomy and deteriorating old house does little for Harkin’s state of mind. Reputed to be haunted, Kilcolgan house shares its ghosts with Harkin.
Harkin was a great character. Deeply traumatized by the dire circumstances of WWI trench warfare, yet he retained his ethics and moral fortitude despite his personal history.
Duplicitous characters, conspiracies, police corruption, martial law, and the fight for Home Rule pervade this novel.
This was an interesting and compelling gothic mystery which was overshadowed by the Irish politics and military history of the time period. I recommend this historical murder mystery to those readers with a keen interest in Irish history and a love of gothic mysteries.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Arcade Crimewise / Simon & Schuster via Edelweiss.
William Ryan is an Irish writer living in London. He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin and the University of St Andrews and worked as a lawyer before taking up writing full-time. His first novel, THE HOLY THIEF, was shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, The CWA John Creasy New Blood Dagger and a Barry Award. His second novel, THE BLOODY MEADOW, was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year, as was his next – THE TWELFTH DEPARTMENT. THE TWELFTH DEPARTMENT was also shortlisted for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger and named one of The Guardian’s crime novels of the year.