01 March, 2012

Mystery Musings: Irish Mysteries

March means one thing to most people: St. Patrick's Day. And while I'm all for celebrating the saint people associate most with the land of my ancestors, there's a lot more to Ireland -- mystery writers, for instance.

How many Irish mystery authors  -- or authors who write about Irish protagonists -- can you name? One? Two? Four?  I'm sure a couple quickly pop to mind: Rhys Bowen (Molly Murphy series), John Connolly (Charlie "Byrd" Parker), Andrew Greeley ("Blackie" Ryan & Nuala Ann McGrail), Ralph McInerny ( Andrew Broom & Father Roger Dowling).

One of my favourite cozy authors is, Sister Carol Ann O'Marie who's protagonist -  Sister Mary Helen - reminds me of the nuns who taught me in grammar school.

In my next couple of posts, I'd like to suggest some authors you might not have read, or even heard of.

Though he was born in Holyoke, MA, Mark McGarrity, wrote a popular series of mystery novels set in Ireland under the pen name Bartholomew Gill.

Starting in 1976, and up until his death in 2002, Gill featured an endlessly resourceful police detective named Peter McGarr (and his wife Noreen) in sixteen mysteries. The last, "Death in Dublin" was published posthumously.

The McGarr mysteries are known for their clever plots and vivid depictions of contemporary Irish life. Along the way, McGarr encounters the country's poor itinerant ''tinkers,'' the shady underworld of Irish heroin dealers, Irish immigrants in New York, and the Irish Republican Army. Chief Inspector McGarr is set apart from other cops by his knowledge of Irish esoterica could be astounding. In one book, the plot hinges on the name of an obscure expert in ethnomusicology; in another, ''Death of a Joyce Scholar,'' a murder occurs on Bloomsday, June 16, and Inspector McGarr bones up on ''Ulysses'' in order to trace the killer's steps and solve the crime.

Gill's dialogue is terse, smart Irish give and take; his ability to create moods and settings so intensely real keeps the reader on edge, and he never hesitates to highlight the unflinching brutality and amorality of both sides of the law.

Many, if not all of this series, are available on Kindle, so why not open a bottle of Guinness and delve a little deeper into Ireland this March?

  • McGarr and the Politician's Wife (Also published as: The Death of an Irish Politician)(1977)
  • McGarr and the Sienese Conspiracy (Also published as: The Death of an Irish Consul)(1977)
  • McGarr on the Cliffs of Moher (Also published as: The Death of an Irish Lass)(1978)
  • McGarr at the Dublin Horse Show (Also published as: The Death of an Irish Tradition)(1979)
  • McGarr and the P.M. of Belgrave Square (1983)
  • McGarr and the Method of Descartes(1984)
  • McGarr and the Legacy of a Woman Scorned (1986)
  • The Death of a Joyce Scholar (1989)
  • The Death of Love     (1992)
  • Death on a Cold, Wild River (1993)
  • The Death of an Ardent Bibliophile (1995)
  • The Death of an Irish Sea Wolf (1996)
  • The Death of an Irish Tinker (1997)
  • The Death of an Irish Lover (2000)
  • Death of an Irish Sinner (2001)
  • Death in Dublin (2002)

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