Welcome to the eighth edition of our gazetteer – e’re half way through our journey around crime fiction locations in the British Isles. After a brief stopover to rest our weary feet, our boots are on again, and we are ready to seek out more regional crime fiction for you. Our previous visits have been to the East Midlands, Northern Ireland, West Midlands, North East, South West, East Anglia and Scotland.
Part 8: The Irish Republic
Spring has sprung, and they say that there is nowhere quite as green as The Emerald Isle. Of course, we realise that the Republic of Ireland is not part of Britain or the United Kingdom and has its own cultural heritage. However, it’s Britain’s closest neighbour and its writing, music art and more are closely intertwined with the UK’s. We would be doing our readers and Irish crime writers a disservice by excluding them from this series.
Our first stop is in Ireland’s capital, Dublin. The city is the birthplace of Brendan Behan, James Joyce, Iris Murdoch, George Bernard Shaw, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde and WB Yeats. They write good crime fiction, too, on the banks of the Liffey, and none more so than Sinead Crowley. With 20 years of journalism behind her and a poet’s eye for her city, she has turned to crime writing with great success. Are You Watching Me? (2015) is a very clever and nuanced look at how the media’s 24/7 thirst for news and the next ‘big thing’ can have disastrous consequences for those caught up in the circus.
Moving south, and west, you will discover the ancient city of Galway, and the brooding and self-destructive detective Jack Taylor. Vividly brought to life by Ken Bruen, Taylor is a resentful, violent and fearless former officer of the garda. Bruen’s scalding prose is as hardboiled as it gets, and Taylor exists in a waking nightmare of a world where regret, anger and misery seem to be the main commodities, along with a bit of whiskey. There is redemption too, but for Jack Taylor, it often comes at a price, as you can discover if you read Purgatory, which we reviewed in 2013.
The Roman Catholic church in Ireland is never far from people’s lives and imaginations. Although Jo Spain is a Dublin girl, much of her breakthrough novel With Our Blessing is based in Limerick, in the province of Munster. It focuses on the controversial role of the church in the treatment prescribed for young women who got pregnant outside of marriage. The very words ‘The Magdalene Laundries’ have become synonymous with religious cruelty and lack of common compassion. In the novel, DI Tom Reynolds traces a crime back from a wintry Dublin park to a religious house in Limerick, and finds a history of shame, guilt – and pure violence.
Peter Tremayne is the pseudonym of Peter Berresford Ellis, who was actually born in Coventry, but has impeccable Irish antecedents via his Cork-born father. A fascination with his Celtic heritage is apparent in his successful series of historical novels featuring Sister Fidelma. She is a member of a religious order in Cashel, County Tipperary. In her seventh century world, drama, death, mystery and conspiracy are never far away, and the 26th novel in the series, The Second Death, appeared in 2015. We took a look at an earlier novel, The Seventh Trumpet, in 2013.