Two for One

Wrapping up Reading Ireland Month with two good reads…

A Stone of the Heart by John Brady

A Brutal murder on the grounds of Trinity College, Dublin, sparks a police investigation with unexpected consequences for Sergeant Matt Minogue of the Garda Murder Squad. When the body of student Jarlath Walsh is discovered with his head beaten in, Minogue instinctively knows that this is no random killing. Walsh was a young idealist, an innocent, as his grieving girlfriend Agnes McGuire confirms. But someone wants Minogue to believe that Walsh was a drug pusher who got what he deserved. As the sergeant digs deeper into the case, Dublin is rocked by IRA violence — a violence that seems somehow linked to the student’s murder. Minogue discovers the truth only after he is nearly killed when a hair-raising chase ends in a fateful clash in that no-man’s land which is the border with Northern Ireland.
    The title comes from Yeats: “Too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart.” The stony heartedness of grief and political hatred resonate through this subtle thriller set against a backdrop of terrorist violence.

This book is the first in the Inspector Matt Minogue Mystery series, there are ten books in the series. Minogue is freshly called back to service after a serious on duty injury. He’s really not sure if his superiors really want him to, or care if, he solves this case or if they just thought it was a good vehicle to see if he is ready to come back to work. He second guesses everything they do or say to him.  Set in the unrest of 1980’s Ireland, lots of politicking going on. This book sets us up with insight with his past and family dynamics. We learn who Matt Minogue is. It is a slow read with a dramatic chase at the end. Well worth the time. I first heard about this book way back in 2013 on Tracy’s blog Bitter Tea and Mystery. Hop over and read her review too! It’s been on my shelf since 2013, wow! Glad I finally read it!


Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

  Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America, she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind.
    Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future.

I very much enjoyed this book! It was a gentle, sweet story of an immigrant’s journey. Eilis didn’t really belong in her new homeland and now doesn’t really belong in her old homeland anymore. Somewhat sad really.

Looking forward to reading Nora Webster by this author soon. Nora is mentioned in this book. There is a recent movie, of the same title, made from this book. Have any of you seen Brooklyn!

Sad that Reading Ireland Month is over, but looking forward to next year. I discovered several new authors through this and will definitely be looking for their books. Thanks Cathy!

Irish TV

Keeping with all things Irish this month of The Begorrathon over at Cathy’s 746 Books I thought I would highlight a couple of Irish TV shows that I absolutely loved.

91fU27Tzy5L._SY550_Quirke is a three part crime noir series based on John Banville’s series of crime novels written under the pen name Benjamin Black. Amazing that I loved this show so much since I haven’t been able to get into a Banville book enough to finish one! I guess I should try this series. I loved Gabriel Byrne in this. I love him in anything actually. Byrnes plays Quirke, we never know his first name, a pathologist in 1950’s Dublin. It’s a beautiful period piece. It aired in 2014 on RTE and then BBC One. Michael Gambon plays Quirke’s adoptive father.

The first episode is based on the first book in the series Christine Falls:

It’s not the dead that seem strange to Quirke. It’s the living. One night, after a few drinks at an office party, Quirke shuffles down into the morgue where he works and finds his brother-in-law, Malachy, altering a file he has no business even reading. Odd enough in itself to find Malachy there, but the next morning, when the haze has lifted, it looks an awful lot like his brother-in-law, the esteemed doctor, was in fact tampering with a corpse—and concealing the cause of death.

It turns out the body belonged to a young woman named Christine Falls. And as Quirke reluctantly presses on toward the true facts behind her death, he comes up against some insidious—and very well-guarded—secrets of Dublin’s high Catholic society, among them members of his own family.

Set in Dublin and Boston in the 1950s, the first novel in the Quirke series brings all the vividness and psychological insight of Booker Prize winner John Banville’s fiction to a thrilling, atmospheric crime story. Quirke is a fascinating and subtly drawn hero, Christine Falls is a classic tale of suspense, and Benjamin Black’s debut marks him as a true master of the form.

Watch the RTÊ trailer…

You can watch clips on this show on the BBC site.

I really need to read these books! I did find a headline, while looking for info on this series, dated March 16, 2018 that states Byrnes returns to Dublin to film series two of Quirke! I can live in hope! This series doesn’t seem to be available in many places. I did find it on Amazon. You can buy episodes or watch it with a trial of Britbox through Amazon. Click on the link for Amazon above. Have you seen it? Have you read any of the books? What did you think of it?

Another Irish TV series I really enjoyed is Jack Taylor, a mystery drama set in Galway based on the Jack Taylor series of books by Ken Bruen. Jack is an old-school detective, a maverick, a hard drinking man, thrown off the force for one too many ‘incidents’. He starts picking up cases the cops won’t touch and begins a career as a ‘finder’, private eye sounds too much like an informant. Iain Glen plays the lead character and he is excellent in this role of a battered, hard-broiled and broken man. Again books I have not read. I did come across a Bruen book once at a sale, but didn’t pick it up.

Jack Taylor trailer…

There are four seasons of this series! This series is available on Netflix, Acorn, or Amazon Prime.

Have you read any of these books or seen this show? Did you like it?

The Small Widow

by Janet McNeill

img_3856-1back of the book:

Harold’s death leaves Julia a widow, alone and struggling with grief as well as her new life. How can she begin to build new relationships with her friends, what does she now owe to her children, or they to her? For the first time Julia has to learn independence, she needs to discover who she is when she is no longer a wife and is now a mother to children who do not need her. As a widow can Julia find a freedom, an identity, which has never existed in her life before?

Janet McNeill is one of the great writers of the disillusions of middle age, while her wry humor and compassion builds a spare and moving world. Her perceptive and intelligent writing is honest and unflinching in its understanding of the emotional conflicts of family life and the ironies of ordinary life.

After 32 years of marriage Julia is suddenly left a widow at 56. This is a well written story of probably most women’s middle age struggle whether left a widow or not. I enjoyed this and having just turned 60, saw myself in much of it. Although I still have my husband alive and well with me, I could definitely identify with this time of life. Once the kids are grown and out on their own with their own lives, my parents having passed away in the last few years, there is a real internal struggle with ‘who I am’ now that I’m not Mildred’s daughter, and the ‘mom relationship’ so different now that the kids have grown up lives of their own. Even the grand kids are older now and don’t want to spend hours being silly on Skype with me or cry when they have to go home from my house. It’s funny the timing, because it is something I’ve had on my mind and been praying about a lot lately. How can I be useful and contribute now that most of my main ‘uses’ in life have disappeared. How do I shift gears now and maintain a full constructive life? This story was just what the doctor ordered!

There are extended family relations and relationships included and a pretty major family secret that spills out too. Kept me reading, I read it in two days. Good book! I really like McNeill’s writing. Tea at Four O’clock was wonderful too. Hoping I can find more of her books.

Reading Ireland 18

Bogmail by Patrick McGinley

IMG_0552A truly funny and stunningly well-told tale of murder in a small Irish village in Donegal, Bogmail is a classic of modern Irish literature.

Set in a remote village in the Donegal countryside, the action begins with a murder when Roarty, a publican and former priest, kills his bartender, with a volume of his beloved 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica, then buries his body in a bog. It’s not long before Roarty starts getting blackmail letters, and matters quickly spiral out of his control.

Twisty, turny and enlivened with colour that echoes the landscape and surroundings, Bogmail was Patrick McGinley’s first novel, yet it remains just as fresh today as the day it first appeared.

Bogmail is NOT your traditional mystery! We know right up front who did it, it’s rather about will he get caught. We don’t know the blackmailer is though! Bogmail is also a dark comedy, basically about the deterioration of a man’s psyche after he commits murder. McKinley didn’t portray the people of Glenkeel in a very favorable light and I’m sure if I were Irish I would understand the little nuances better. The Donegal Democrat wrote this on the publication of Bogmail…

‘a horrific concoction of filth … a picture of life in Donegal that is revolting in the extreme … virtually pornography veneered with an assumption of literary value … a shocking libel on the people of Donegal.’

There is some sex in this book, fairly descriptive and failure of male physiology. A straight forward novel with philosophical, theological and psychological weight to it.

Lots of wonderful tension that kept me interested and turning pages. The characterization is wonderful! I loved all the characters and got pulled in right away. Wonderful sense of place with lovely descriptive writing that puts you right there in Ireland, having a pint in the pub to fishing in the bay or hunting snipe. I loved the lyrical writing of Mr. McGinty, here’s a sample, a bit on the long side, but worth the read. Meet Roarty…

‘Roarty was sitting behind the bar, holding the newspaper at arm’s length as he read. Even in his present hunched position he looked impressive. He was tall, broad-backed, bald and bearded with an air of stillness that reminded Potter of early mornings on the mountain. Was it the stillness of self-possession or self-absorption, he wondered without knowing why. When you met him in the street, the first thing you noticed was the width of his shoulders and his bow-legged walk. But when he was behind the bar, you could only see his top half, and then it was the head that impressed. It was a noble head with a grizzled beard from the depth of which emerged a sandblasted, straight-stemmed pipe. Beardless, he would hav been red faced. As it was, the flush of his cheeks showed above the greyness of his beard, contrasting oddly with the pale skin of his bald head. The thickness of his beard concealed his closely placed ears. You could not see them if you looked him full in the face, and this gave his head its unforgettable outline. Pulling a pint of stout, he would eye the rising froth, his head tilted sideways, the cast of his half-hidden lips betraying serious concern. But when the pint was nicely topped, his eyes would light up momentarily as he placed it before the expectant customer. At such moments one felt that because of some pessimistic streak in his nature he did not expect the pint to be perfect and that he was continually surprised by the successful combination of brewer’s technology and his own handiwork. The pint served, he would put out a big hand with wet-kept nails and take your money with an absentmindedness that robbed the transaction of anything approaching the cold-blooded self-interest of commerce.
   Looking at him now, Potter became aware of the difference between him and the farmers and fishermen who drank in his pub, hardy, bony men who went out unthinkingly in all weathers. They were men who reminded him of bare uplands, grey rocks and forlorn roads in the mountains. Even in the twilight of the pub they wore their peaked caps down over their eyes, and though they could be seen occasionally squinting from beneath them there was an unflinchingness in their gaze as if they believed that looking could change the object looked at. Their lean faces bore spiders’ webs of deeply etched lines that branched from eye corners or criss-crossed stubbled chins, expressing for Potter a noble stoicism in the grip of life’s adversity. But Roarty did not look like that at all. He was big-boned and fleshy rather than hardy, with the look of a man who had led a comfortable life, who had never experienced sun or wind except from personal choice.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for sometime. I also read Goosefoot by McGinty some years ago and wasn’t sure what to make of that one. I’d kind of like to reread it now but I’ve passed it on to someone else :(. Read Ireland Month over @ 746 Books was the impetus to finally pick this one up and read it. I’m glad I did!

The BBC made a TV series from this book back in 1991 and I found it available to watch on Youtube! There are three episodes. Check it out HERE. I’m including links to two reviews by Irish authors who would get more out of the Irishness of the book than I might for you to read….   Rob Kitchin and Darragh McManus. HERE is a nice interview with author. I think I’m going to enjoy this month of reading very much!

#readireland18   #begorrathon18   #irishliterature

This fulfills the “set in a small village” category under “where” in the silver era Just the Facts Notebook @My Reader’s Block.   Also counts for Cloak and Dagger.

The Begorrathon


Cathy over @746 Books hosts a READING IRELAND MONTH each March. (Click the link to read the how to’s.)  I’m joining in this year. I just discovered Cathy’s blog this last year and have found lots of good reads there! Cathy lives in Ireland. I have Irish ancestry on my paternal grandmother’s side, she was a Gallagher before she married my German grandpa and became a Brintzenhofe :0

‘Reading Ireland Month (or The Begorrathon as it is affectionately known) will feature book and film reviews, poems, music, interviews, giveaways and much, much more.

I have several good ‘Irish’ books that I’ve been looking forward to reading. This is my list I will be reading from. I know I won’t get them all read but hopefully at least 4-5!

Bogmail by Patrick McGinley
Across the Bitter Sea by Eilis Dillon
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
The Book of Evidence by John Banville
Charming Billy by Alice McDermott  (Irish/American community setting)
A Chance To Die by Elizabeth Elliot biography of Irish Missionary Amy Carmichael
The Death of An Irish Lover by Bartholomew Gill
The Death of an Irish Sea Wolf by Bartholomew Gill
The Islandman by Tomás Ó Crohan
In the Woods, The Likeness and Faithful Place  all three by Tana French
Loving and Giving by Molly Keane
Mad Puppetstown by M.J. Farrell (Molly Keane)
Mary Lavelle by Kate O’Brien
My Lover’s Lover by Maggie O’Farrell
And one I’m hoping to get from my library: The Good People by Hannah Kent

It’s a great excuse to look for Irish movies to watch and music too! You should run over and sign up too! THE BEGGORATHON