MORRIS’ VICTORIAN, IRISH MURDER MYSTERY, STEAMS ONTO SHELVES IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

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Over the past year, two independently made tv documentaries have put the spotlight on the small West Cork village of Schull and has led to large numbers of viewers flocking there. The reason for the interest in this remote hamlet, is the unsolved murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in December 1996. In the interim, one man has become the prime suspect, but never been charged or convicted in Ireland. In France, Ian Bailey was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 25 years in prison. There are similarities to this case and the subject of this month’s second Book Review, the book is the Dublin Railway Murder by Thomas Morris and published by Vintage ( www.penguin.co.uk/company/publishers/vintage.html ) on the 11th November.

Dublin 1856, the Chief Cashier of the Midlands Great Western Railway, Mr George Little. Was discovered dead with his throat cut in his office, which was locked from the inside, at the Broadstone Terminus. No murder weapon was found and thousands of pounds in gold and silver are left lying on his desk. Irelands most experienced detective and Dublin’s leading lawyer team up the investigate the murder. But the mystery defies all explanation and even baffles two of Scotland Yard’s top sleuths. With the days and months dragging on and five suspects arrested and released, along with every twist and turn of the case followed by the press, a local woman suddenly comes forward claiming to know the killer… Is she telling the truth, or is it just another dead end? Also, can a Phrenologist from England also prove that he can tell if a person is a murderer or not by measuring their head, if so, is the new suspect capable of committing such a deed?

I live just south of Dublin in the coastal town of Bray, and was in the city last week when I had to go to the leafy southside suburb of Ballsbridge for a work event. As for being anywhere near the north inner city, it’s been well over two years or more. The Broadstone terminus is now a large Dublin Bus depot, with a Dublin Light Rail (LUAS) stop adjoining it too.  It recently underwent a major multimillion-euro restoration project of the old station building. I’ve never had any need to use it or visit the site or was I aware of an unsolved murder there.

Click the link to take a virtual tour of the refurbished station and The murder scene (KBC / Journal.ie) http://www.thejournal.ie/broadstone-station-vr-tour-3836271-Feb2018

The book is an amazing historical read, which leads the reader through every facet of the investigation and its aftermath. I was enthralled by the historical detail Morris potrayed about Dublin, Ireland, and its citizens, as well as the famous literary connectiuons to the case, like Jane Austen and Oscar Wilde. While reliving how basic murder investigations were back then. Especially considering how easily crime solving is portrayed in books and on the large and small screens these days, with the aid of computers and Forensics.

Back then, for example, the coroner wasn’t a medical man, just someone from the political elite who had friends in high places. Then there’s the strange interpretations of the law, like for example a wife not being able to give evidence against her husband. While forensically, the crime scene is all but rendered useless by hordes of curious onlookers and members of staff of the building entering the office to gawp at the sight of a dead man, let alone mentioning that the body is searched by members of the management of the company before any member of the police force arrives on the scene. This all comes across as very chaotic, but it is of its time and thank God things have moved on.

Broadstone station building (The Irish Times)

This isn’t my first time reading a book detailing the investigation of a real-life murder in Victorian England or Ireland. I’ve previously read the Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscales, Whicher was actually one of the two detectives sent across by Scotland Yard, although the celebrated detective remained very much under the radar and returned home baffled by the case after a fornight. On top of that I’ve also read Patricia Cornwell’s Portrait of a Killer, one of many books written about Jack The Ripper. Here we realise very quickly the haphazard way things were done, even down to the anti-Semitic accusations bandied about by the public and press.

Meanwhile, if you are one who loves James Patterson’s style of serving up chapters a single page long, then you are in for a let-down, so meaty and in-depth is Morris’ research and attention to detail, they are on average twenty plus pages in length. Each one ends on a teasing and page turning high point, meaning that this could lead to a few late nights. Who needs Netflix when you can binge your way through the salacious details of a murder mystery that makes this book a thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read? So delighted was I with this book, that had it arrived a couple of weeks earlier, I’d have presented it to my book group as my December choice. I suppose there’s always next year,

Thomas Morris

This is English author and historian Thomas Morris’ ( www.thomas-morris.uk )  third book, his others are The Matter Of The Heart (2017) and The Mystery Of The Exploding Teeth (2018). Before becoming a write he was a BBC Radio Producer for 18years and his freelance journalism has appeared in The Times, The Lancet and TLS. He also has a blog is subtitled “Making You Grateful for Modern Medicine”, he currently lives in London.

So, if you are interested in Irish history, or like me a local resident fascinated to learn about the capital city’s dark past, then this enthralling and highly addictive book is a must for you, or an excellent Christmas present for friends or family at home or abroad.

Reviewed by   Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour. To see what the other reviewers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then, if you get a copy and read it, comeback and tell us what you thought. We’d really appreciate the feedback.

CLINTON AND PENNY TERRORISE THE THRILLER GENRE WITH THEIR GRIPPING COLLABORATION

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If I were an an American, during the elections for president which saw Obama and Trump prevail, I would have been a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter. Personally, I feel she’s the best president the states never had. She’d might have  done a  better job than her husband, whose presidency was marred by a lapse personal judgement, and I feel the USA we know today would be a better place if she had won. As you can tell, I’m a fan and so I was delighted to be asked to read ‘State of Terror’ a collaboration between the thriller writer Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton and published by Pan MacMillan (www.panmacmillan.com) on the 12th october, for this month’s first book review..

After a tumultuous period in American politics , a new administration has just been sworn in . Secretary of State, Ellen Adams is determined to do her duty for her country. But she is about to face a horrifying international threat. A young foreign service officer has received a baffling text from a anonymous source. Too late, she realises it was a hastily coded warning. Then a series of bus bombs devastate Europe, heralding the rise of a new rogue terrorist organisation, who will stop at nothing to develop a nuclear arsenal. As Ellen unravels the damaging effects of the former presidency on International politics, she has to consider if the previous president was a traitor?

There’s an interesting section at the end of the book, where Hillary and Louise are interviewed about how they met and how this writing collaboration came about. It seems Hillary and her closest friend Betsy were both avid thriller readers and enjoyed Louise Penny’s books.  Betsy and Louise were introduced and following the death of Louise’s husband, Hillary sent a personal sympathy card. A friendship between the three women and their husbands then developed. During covid and following a collaboration between Bill Clinton and James Patterson, it was suggested that Hillary and Louise team up to write a political thriller. Some of the characters in the book are based on, or at least named after real colleagues and friends. There are also many other characters in the book which resemble recent and current political figures, the British Prime Minister with the unruly hair for example, or that slightly mad ex-president in Florida…

This book was an exciting read from the first page and kept up the fast pace and edge of your seat tension throughout. Ellen moves from one dangerous situation to another as she races from one end of the world to the other in her search for answers. The book is full of intrigue and twists and turns. With the authors keeping the reader guessing as who is to be trusted an who isn’t, never straightforward in a world of politics where everyone has their own agenda.

Ellen is a likeable character, smart and funny but ultimately very human. She is new to the role of Secretary of State but brings to it a certain amount of street smarts from her previous career running a media empire. There’s also some family tension in relation to her son. Betsy in this book, is her lifelong friend and confidante and has a role as her advisor. She brings a wit and loyalty to Ellen’s current role, where everyone else, its seems, is her enemy. I really enjoyed the ‘woman power’ demonstrated in this story which I thought was never heavy handed.

Louise Penny / Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton (www.hillaryclinton.com) is the author of seven previous books which include It Takes A Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us (1996), An Invitation To The White House (2000), The Book Of Gutsy Women (co-written with Chelsea Clinton) (2019), Why I Should Be President (2014). She was the first woman in America to recieve a presidential nomination and served as the 67th Secretary Of State after nearly four decades in public office including eight years as the first lady.

Louise Penny (www.louisepenny.com) is a Canadian author of seventeen mystery novels set in the province of Quebec and featuring her hero Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, they include: Still Life (2005), Bury Your Dead (2010), The Long way Home (2014) and The Madness Of Crowds (2021). before turning to writing she was a broadcaster with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, In 2017 she recieved the Order of Canadan (OC) for her contribution to Canadian culture. she curently lives just outside Montreal.

Hillary confides that there were three scenarios which would give her sleepless nights when she was Secretary of State, and this was one of them. I hope therefore, that another of the three will be a second book featuring Ellen Adams. If its as gripping as this, I can’t wait.

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

This book review is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviwers thought visit their blogs listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you thought. we’d really appreciate the feedback.