Written by Anne Emery – Emery’s amateur sleuths Father Brennan Burke and Monty Collins have traded in the mean streets of Halifax, Nova Scotia for those of Dublin here in Death at Christy Burke’s. The Brennan and Collins series is set in the early 1990s, so with the action moving to Ireland, it’s not long before the pair finds themselves embroiled in a mystery that may have strong links with the country’s paramilitary past and present.
Brennan is on a working holiday, teaching at a seminary, and Monty has decided to join him on his trip back to the old country. However, before the pair have time to settle down with a couple of pints of the black stuff, trouble is already brewing. They find themselves with two mysteries to solve and a whole raft of problems to deal with along the way. Before they’ve even set foot in Christy Burke’s, the pub named after Brennan’s grandfather and run by his uncle, Finn, they discover that a mysterious graffiti artist has been leaving messages on the building’s walls hinting that one of its regulars may be a killer. Meanwhile, north of the border a visiting American preacher has gone missing with no clues to who may have taken him, or why. The pair cannot resist the temptation and decide to start digging around.
Joining them on this outing is Father Michael O’Flaherty, Brennan’s Monsignor, and a cast of helpers that fans of Emery’s books may remember from their previous exploits. This is a story full of hidden secrets and family loyalty, and it soon becomes evident that everyone they meet has something to hide. The seed is planted in the reader’s mind that perhaps the key to the current situation may lie in the past. For Brennan, this is an investigation into his own family’s IRA past and possible current involvement. Meanwhile, O’Flaherty decides to look into some of the pub’s regulars and finds they each have a story to tell. As the layers are peeled away the links between all of the emerging facts begin to appear and Emery’s sleuths find themselves treading on dangerous ground.
There are elements of humour but there is also a serious side to this book. Be warned that Emery is not afraid to pull any punches in the Anglo-Irish debate and some readers might find that a little overbearing, but this is a book that will make you stop and think about the issue nonetheless. Other than that, the only drawback is the price – it’s quite an expensive book, even on Kindle.
However, this is a read with an awful lot going on throughout its pages. It’s so engaging that you can’t help being sucked in, not least because you find yourself being drawn to the characters. Fans of the series will not be disappointed, and if it’s your first foray into Brennan and Burke, this introduction will definitely whet your appetite for more.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars