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 ( ) 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 /

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’ ( )  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.



Over Christmas Adrian and I filled the lockdown hours with board games, books, walks and TV. We fell down the rabbit hole that is Netflix, Prime and You Tube. The lure of just one more episode, or similar programme suggestions, proved too strong on many occasions and lots of late nights were had.  In particular , we have discovered, or in Adrian’s case , rediscovered, Unsolved Mysteries with Robert Stack. The series was first aired in 1987 and went through several presenters and incarnations. Prime are rerunning the shows and many of the cases have updates and most of the ‘Unsolved mysteries’ are now solved. The attraction to many of us of a mystery fuels the continual growth of the crime and mystery genre of writing. So there’s no better way to fling open the Library Door on a new year and the first review, than with a mystery. Its The Dark Room by Sam Blake, published by Corvus books ( on the 7th January.

The story is based around an old house in West Cork, called Hare’s Landing. Two women travel there. One is Rachel Lambert, a film location manager, and the other is Caroline Kelly, a crime reporter, based in New York. Both women have familial ties to Ireland but are visiting hare’s landing for other reasons. Caroline has come back to Ireland to get some thinking space after being threatened with a lawsuit in the US. Hare’s Landing seems like the ideal retreat. Rachel has travelled to Hare’s Landing, following the trail of a homeless man’s history. He has died in London. At the same time, her investigative journalist boyfriend has been knocked off his bike and their narrowboat home, ransacked. While staying at the hotel, they find out about a mysterious death and a 30-year- old missing persons case, which have happened there. Soon it becomes apparent that Rachel’s investigation into the homeless man’s past and the mysteries at Hare’s Landing are intertwined. Their search for the truth may have put them in danger.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The two main characters were sympathetic and appealing. It was easy to imagine how the two of them would have struck up a friendship as the only two guests at the old house.

Being a veterinary nurse and animal lover, Its always good to have a dog in the mix too and Jasper, the retired police dog was a necessary device here.

There was a good cast of locals (or suspects!) too. Something you’d find in most rural areas, which helped to build the backdrop of that Irish small town feel of everyone knowing everyone else’s business or wanting to! This was handled well without recourse to diddly-I, as one would expect from an Irish author. From her introduction, I kept thinking that Mrs Travers, the hotel manager, reminded me of Mrs Danvers from Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’ and at some point Caroline and Rachel make that comment too so it was nice to see it referenced.

Sam Blake aka Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin (SamBlakeBooks)

This the fifth book of Irish author,Sam Blake ( , the others all feature her female Garda detective Cat Connolly, Little Bones (2016), In Deep Water (2017), No Turning Back (2018) and Keep Your Eyes On Me (2020). Sam Blake is the pseudonym of Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin, the founder of the website and The Inkwell Group, a publishing consultancy. Originally from St. Albans in Hertfordshire, she started writing after her husband, a retired Garda, set sail across the Atlantic for 8 weeks, and she had an idea for a book. When not writing she runs Murder One, Ireland’s leading crime writing festival (we need an Invite) and hosts a podcast called Behind The Bestseller (must give it a whirl) , she lives with her husband and kids, three cats, and an ant farm, down the road from us here in Co. Wicklow.

The suggestions of paranormal events only added to the gothic feel of Hare’s Landing. I loved the hints at secrets, the finding of clues like letters and photos and slow realisation the past events were very much linked to current ones, building tension. Loved the climatic ending too. If I had any quibble it would be to wonder how the title relates to the story? It does pique your curiosity though..

So, a five star recommendation from us here at the Library Door for a super lockdown read. Thrills without the gore, a classic mystery, and two likeable amateur sleuths. We suggest you Hare off to buy it (within Covid guidelines), click and collect a copy at your local bookshop or download a copy now!

Reviewed by Georgina Murphy

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



BillyRingroseCvrAs a child, I was horse mad. I lived and breathed horses and riding. I knew all about their care, their tack and their ailments. My greatest wish was for a horse of my own. Growing up on an inner city council estate, I was regularly brought back down to earth with the pronouncement that you can’t keep a horse in a green house. However, I was indulged to the point of having riding lessons during my early teenage years. The school I went to was very good. It instilled a full education on horsemanship and horse care. None of this turning up to have your tacked pony brought out for you, Oh no, we had to catch them or  get them up, brush them down, check their hooves and tack them up ourselves. No mean feat for 12 year olds dealing with the most savvy, sly and workshy school ponies ever. But we loved it.

My heroes at the time were the british show jumpers David Broome and Nick Skelton. Harvey Smith was flying high at the time too but was frowned upon by my family for his bullish attitude, rude gestures and, what we perceived to be, rough handling of his horses. He was also not forgiven for always being on the programme at our local show, where each year there was a Tannoy announcement saying he’d broken down enroute (and then we’d arrive home to see him busy jumping at Hickstead). The poor man was probably oblivious to his eagerly anticipated arrival at a local county show in Nottingham!

I was always fascinated by the military outfits and no hard hats of the Irish team at international events. Such glamour! So, I was  both intrigued and delighted to be given an opportunity to  read and review a book  of the story of William (Billy) Ringrose and the growth of Irish success at showjumping on the international circuit from its beginnings to recent times.

The book, simply titled, Billy Ringrose, a memoir of my father is written and self published by his third son, Fergal. The history is built from interviews with Billy and his wife Joan, along with insights from colleagues and friends and from research in the archives held by the Army Equitation School and from press coverage at the time. Billy comes across as a reserved, self-effacing man, who saw the great triumphs of his career as just doing his job. They were spectacular wins. In 1961, he was presented with the Grand Prix de Monaco by Princess Grace and the Grand Prix de Roma by Queen Elizabeth II. He is the only man to have won the Aga Khan Cupas a rider, as the Irish Chef D’Equipe and then as President of the RDS. What could be said to be most amazing is that Billy had never had a riding lesson before he joined the Army!


Col. Billy RingRose with Capt. Geoff Curran in 2016 (Irish Field)



This is also a history of the development of the Army Equitation School. It was realised that Ireland needed a way to advertise its equine bloodstock trade internationally and the best way was to compete and win showjumping events at international level. Cadets were recruited based on athleticism in other sports, rather than coming up via the ranks of pony club and local shows like in Britain, where the team wasn’t army based, and for a while all cadets made their way through the school in an effort to identify those with the correct combination of fearlessness and skills. At the same time the supply of horses was limited and variable depending on political goodwill, so the Irish army spent a lot of time competing with inferior horses to other nations such as the Germans who dominated the sport. The Irish had a different tactic in selection and training of riders. Which gradually paid off.

Billy was an inspiration to younger riders. He is well regarded by his colleagues. It was interesting to read of politics at work and his sideways move to a department he knew nothing about and how others were promoted without doing the necessary training depending rather on who they knew. Nothing much changes! Billy did get returned to the post of CO of the equitation school. On retirement from this position he went on the horse purchase board and the RDS horse show committee before being elected President of the RDS.

This is Irish Author Fergal Ringrose’s (@fergalwilliam) first book. After gaining a BA from

Fergal Ringrose

Fergal Ringrose

Dublin City University and an MA from California State University both in Communication Studies he has worked as an editor and journalist in Business publishing for the television broadcast production sector.

This is a very detailed account of a full and interesting career. Interesting, not only from the point of Billy’s personal achievements but also the advances and success achieved by the Army equitation school, during Billy’s tenure.

It is a book which would appeal to those interested in Irish history, as well as those with an interest in equestrian matters. The photographs are a lovely addition and the press reports give a real sense of the time. This is at times, a very moving and personal account of the life of a man who should really be more famous here and abroad. He’d probably be surprised to hear me say that as he appears to be modest to the point of denial! I would love to hear an abridged version of this memoir on audiobook, maybe with some of the actual voices. It would also make an ideal project for RTE Radio’s Documentary on One around Dublin Horse Show time.


Reviewed by: Georgina Murphy



River Of Bodies Final CoverThe city of Cork is the second largest city in the Irish republic after the capital Dublin, but is often considered by its residents to be the real capital.  It could have something to do with having the second largest natural harbour in the world after Sydney and the oldest yacht club in the world, founded in 1702. The city’s other claims to fame are, it was the location of the first Ford factory outside of America and the “Rebel County” of Cork is the largest county in Ireland.

I have a connection to the countymy mother’s family are from West Cork. I was only down there in July for a family birthday. As well as that, the city is home to one of the largest Jazz festivals outside of New Orleans, which takes place in October each year attracting over 40,000 visitors annually. Cork is also home to Noel “Noelie” O’Sullivan, the central character in this month’s first book review, its River of Bodies by Kevin Doyle and is  published by Blackstaff Press ( in June this year.

River of Bodies is the second book in The Solidarity Books trilogy following To Keep A Bird Singing, which was published in 2018. The books follow the journey of small time activist  Noelie Sullivan as he continues his investigation into the powerful Donnelly clan, who were mixed up in the goings on in an industrial boys school in Cork back in the 60’s and the murder of a IRA informer, and its cover up by the Irish Police Force’s Special Branch unit in Cork. In the process of his research, his girlfriend and nephew have been murdered. His own life and the lives other close friends have been threatened.

It all started with the fairly innocuous theft of some classic records from Noelie’s flat tenTo Keep A Bird Singing Cover years previously and when, he by chance, discovers them in a charity shop at the start of the first book he also finds the confession of an ex Garda and a sheet of paper with the name of ‘Brian Boru’ (an old Irish king) in a couple of the LP sleeves. Early on in River of Bodies, his neighbour and friend dies from his injuries after a mysterious single car accident. As the trail takes him well beyond the county border and internationally, how many more deaths must Noelie and his close family and friends endure before they can unearth the truth?

One of the draw backs reviewing a literary series, is that I and my fellow bloggers/reviewers regularly get in at the second or third book. Now in most cases, there is enough back story to plough on regardless.  I was sent the first book in this trilogy as well, this time around and I was glad it had come too. As I attempted dive straight into River Of Bodies, only to discover 20 pages in, that there were quite a few references to what had preceded in the first book. So back I went and read it. There’s a funny story from our book group of one of our members picking up the second Hunger Games book inadvertently instead of the first one and then sitting there in the meeting all confused trying figure out what we were talking about…

You know from the outset that Doyle is onto a winner with these books owing to the topic and the other primary ingredients. Yep, kids, paedophiles and that old reliable, the religious orders.

If this trilogy is anything, it comes across a bit like an Irish take on The Millennium series, except their success was helped by the untimely death of its author Steig Larsson. Here’s hoping Kevin Doyle is in good health and the only thing he will need to achieve the success of this series is his great writing.

Our hero Noelie, is nothing special, just an ordinary Joe. A middle aged man, between jobs, whose only real claim to fame was a failed attempt to embarrass President Ronald Reagan at Shannon Airport when he visited Ireland in 1984.

I liked Noelie, but probably wouldn’t hold the same political views. Ireland maybe neutral but the American soldiers transiting through Shannon are helping the local and wider economy. Noelie maybe taken from Doyle’s own character, he’s an activist too, Noelie probably doesn’t want water charges, while I’m of the view nothing in this world is free and when we start rationing water, you’ll have to pay then (Soapbox away now)

The support cast, ergo the ragtag group of friends are all regular people too…  real earthy characters. There’s a previous occupant of the industrial schools, Black Gary, who sounds more like a pirate than a social avenger, Martin, Noelie’s gay neighbour,along with Meabh (a real nod to Lisbeth Salanader).

Kevin Doyle Author Pic

Kevin Doyle

This is Irish Author Kevin Doyle’s ( third book. Before writing To Keep A Bird Singing, he wrote a children’s book, The Worms Who Saved The World with Spark Deely (2017). Kevin has a masters in Organic Synthesis from University College Cork and has worked and lived in Australia and America, before returning home to Ireland where he now lives.

The story in both books is set ten years ago, during Ireland’s struggle to get out of the recession following the banking crisis. Everything seems real enough bar technical things which seemed a bit unbelievable for the law enforcement agencies of a bankrupt country which could hardly keep its fleet of vehicles on the road let alone eavesdrop on conversations using a person’s phone, especially when iPhones were still in their infancy. But again it all goes to help Doyle ratchet up the suspense around the mystery and the numerous disappearances and murders that occur.

My reading of the book with an English tainted accent probably didn’t do it justice and I’d love to hear it read in a local Cork accent. Foreigners or people like my wife from the East Midlands of the UK, may need to listen to it a couple of times if listening to an audiobook of this story.

So, if you’ve never been to Cork; then now maybe the time to go, in the company of the slightly rogueish Noelie Sullivan and his friends. Then once you read both of these books, get yourself on a cheap flight to there just in time for the Jazz festival and see what the lovely city on the River Lee has to offer.


Reviewed by: Adrian Murphy



This book is part of a Random Things Blog Tour, to see what the other reviewers thought, visit their blogs listed below, Then if you read the trilogy, come back and tell us what you thought.

FINAL A River of Bodies BT Poster



bone-and-bloodCvrSome books are said to be read like a swimming pool, you leave it there and dip in and out when you feel like it. That’s usually reserved for reference books or coffee table behemoths and other  handy door stops. Most books are treated like a meal owing to the way stories are usually laid out with a starter, mains and dessert. This brings me to the first book review of 2018. It’s Bone and Blood : A Berlin Novel by Margo Gorman, published by Matador in September 2014.

Bone and blood follows the relationship between Aisling and her great aunt Brigette when they are thrown together in Berlin following the death of Brigette’s daughter Katherina from cancer. Aisling, a university student from Dublin, wrangles a trip to Berlin to represent her family at the funeral, thinking it would be a great chance to see the city. However,  she is forced to share her great aunts house, when in stark opposite to Irish burial times there is a three-week wait on Katherina’s funeral. While sharing the house with someone almost four times her age, she starts to get to know her great aunt and delves into Brigette’s past and how an Irish woman came to spend most of her life in Germany. Through their conversations Aisling discovers Brigette was imprisoned in a concentration camp outside Berlin during the war. But what of Katherina’s father? Where did they meet ? How did Brigette get out of the camp and will Aisling get enough material for a graphic novel telling her great aunts story?

I didn’t like this book, because there was a lot of bones in this story (Think Herring / Mackerel) and gristle too, which made it rather tough to chew and get through. Harking back to my meal reference in the opening lines of the review. If this book was a meal, then the starter should set you up for the main course, but if that  isn’t very good , as in this case, then the rest of the meal turns out to be a let-down and struggles to keep the diner interested.  The first chapter of this book is over complicated and rather hard to decipher and gives no indication as to where the reader or the story is going.

Another point against this debutante Irish writers book, is that there are too many characters to keep track of, especially when you take into account that this was a book group selection and with most book groups you have a certain time scale with which to read a book; in our group its a month. In my case, this period was further reduced to a week, owing to my other reading commitments. This doesn’t allow  one much leeway for over-complicated beginnings. The chapters after that do start to come into focus to an extent but there are still a lot of threads in this story which one must try and keep hold of.  In my own  case I gave up half way through.

The book had a mixed reception at the book group in December at which it was discussed, but myself and a small contingent railed against the general good reports of the other members and were quite scathing. Which sort of came back to bite us, when after an hour’s discussion, the host promptly introduced a surprise guest…. Margo Gorman herself, who was a friend of the host, had been upstairs writing and had heard none of the mixed reviews downstairs.  My wife said she’d never seen me so lost for words, especially when Margo was seated next to me. I did gather my composure along with the others and in a lively and light-hearted discussion afterwards, Margo admitted that she was aware that there was a lot going on in the book and that her editor has asked her to trim the next book down and keep it to one or two main threads.

Margo Gorman

Margo Gorman

This is Irish Author Margo Gorman’s first novel ( , although having worked with international bodies for a number of years she has written numerous books and reports for them. She was educated by Seamus Heaney  in Belfast and now divides her time between Donegal and Germany.

The informal questions & answer session over wine, cheese and mince pies with Margo, also covered her inspiration for the book which came about because of a work trip she made to Ravensbruk concentration camp a couple of years ago, where she discovered the stories of Irish women who were imprisoned there and in other camps during the war.

I wouldn’t dissuade you from reading this book, but it can be a bit of a challenge and as I mentioned in our discussion at the book group, there are easier works of fiction inspired by the holocaust to read. Namely Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson which I reviewed last October. But, yes if you want to support a new Irish writer, go down to your local book shop and pick up a copy, but make sure its read in good company, preferably a very nice glass of wine.



Little red Chrs cvrDuring my wedding weekend in Lincoln in June, Lincoln castle had some very important guests. they were a segment of the 888,246 ceramic red poppies that were installed in the Tower of London in 2014. The poppies represented the British men and women who were killed fighting in both world wars. This isn’t the first time inanimate objects have been used to represent those slain in battle, on the 6th April 2012 an art installation was unveiled on Sarajevo’s main street, it consisted of 11,541 red chairs which represented the victims of the siege of Sarajevo which lasted from the 1992-1995. In the midst of this audience of empty red chairs were 643 little red chairs representing the children killed during the siege, and that is the inspiration for the title of this month’s book, it’s The Little Red Chairs by Edna O’Brien.

The story centres around the arrival of a mysterious foreigner to a west of Ireland village, he claims to be a faith healer and soon sets up a practice, where he uses his charismatic personality to bring the villagers under his spell. One woman in particular, Fidelma Mccarthy, falls heavily for his charm. When the strangers past – he’s responsible for war crimes in the Balkans – catches up with him, the untimely ending of the relationship in the glare of the media and the close-knit community has long and harrowing repercussions for her. So to try and distance herself from the fallout she goes away to what she thinks is a new life in the UK.

When I said harrowing , I really mean down right in your face gratuitously violent, one scene especially. If O’Brien is going for ‘Shock and Awe’, she hits you straight between the eyes. After that, the rest of the book is rather tame and very weakly stitched together.

At the recent book group meeting at which this book was being discussed, this was the main topics of discussion. There was divided views whether it was really necessary. Some of the members found it quite difficult to carry on reading after that scene , taken along with the inept actions of the main character leading up to this event, they found it a poor piece of writing by one of Ireland’s leading literary figures .

The book is basically two stories, the first part which is the story of the stranger from the Balkans arriving in the village, the relationship and its climax.Then the part of the story set in England reads more like a series of short stories about the lives of refugees in the so called land of the “Bright Lights” and “Streets Made of Gold”.  It was generally agreed that O’Brien had seemed to run out of steam after the ending of the relationship and instead of just writing some sort of short story or Novella, she either decided or was advised by her editors to hang a couple of short stories off the end to give it some sort of substance, which I feel it doesn’t.

Born in Co. Clare Ireland in 1930, Edna’s mother was a strict Irish mammy and O’Brien has often described her Irish upbringing as “fervid” and “enclosed”. She trained as a pharmacist and after marrying the Irish writer Ernest Gebler, against her parents’ wishes,they emigrated to London, where she still lives. There, she started writing full time. Her first book of 17 novels, The Country Girls was published in 1960, others included August is a Wicked Month (1965), Zee & Co (1971) and finally The Little Red Chairs in (2015) published by Faber & Faber. She’s also written nine collections of short stories as well as Plays, TV scripts and works of non-fiction.

Edna O'Brien

Edna O’Brien

O’Brien is among a select and elite group Irish literary luminaries who have had their books previously banned in Ireland, but as history has often shown, banning something doesn’t make it less popular but on the contrary more desirable. The majority of her books  express her despair over the condition of women in contemporary society in particular, they criticize women’s repressive rural upbringing. Her heroines search unsuccessfully for fulfillment in relationships with men, often engaging in doomed love trysts as a escape from their loneliness and emotional isolation, something which is seen clearly in The Little Red Chairs.

Near the end of the book Fidelma visits her ex-lover, now a convicted war criminal – whose inspiration is clearly Radovan Karadzic . The scene is so out of place and really does nothing for the story that again begs the question as to why it’s there? If its to take the rough edge off the story and conclude it somehow, it doesn’t reach any real conclusion just adding  a few extra pages to justify the print costs maybe?

Sarajevo Chairs

The Red Chairs of Sarajevo

The characters in the village are stage Irish and are in keeping with a style of character that often populates O’Brien’s books. They are always 20 years out of date, if it was an attempt to see how the remnants of modern warfare might fit it modern Ireland, firstly you have to write about modern Ireland and stop harking back to “The Quiet man”. As for the London stories, they are not really believable and have been written better by other Irish writers.

My advice is, read it if you are a fan of dark tales about repressed Irish women stuck in another era, otherwise a more enjoyable book set in the aftermath of the Balkan war is People of The Book by Geraldine Brooks, previously reviewed on this site.



city-of-bohane-orangeThere’s a new doctor in the house. No, I’m perfectly fine. It’s a Sci-Fi reference and if you’re still lost I’m talking about the recent appointment of Peter Capaldi as the new doctor in the long running BBC drama Doctor Who. If the 12th  Doc’ was to open the door of the TARDIS in the next series and find himself in the setting for this month’s book, then it would be a very interesting episode indeed. The book is City of Bohane by Kevin Barry.

The story is set in the fictional city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland (pronounced Bo-Haan, I’m reliably informed by other members of the book group). It’s a seedy, malevolent place where life is cheap and sex and drugs are what fuels its economy. Control of the different parts of the city and the profits from its illicit trade are run by various gangs, the largest being the Hartnett fancy gang and their leader Logan Hartnett. A number of rival gangs from the other side of the city are itching to get their hands on his business so it looks like the tenuous peace of the city is about to be shattered, as well as that Hartnett’s old nemesis  Gant Broderick has returned to the city after a twenty five year absence. He has unfinished business with Hartnett’s wife Macu but is that all? What of the younger members of the gang? Is Logan facing trouble from within his own ranks? Will life and the balance of power ever be the same in the once great metropolis of Bohane?

kevin Barry


This is Limerick born writer Kevin Barry’s first novel, he’s previously written two collections of short stories ‘There Are Little Kingdoms’ in 2007 and ‘Dark Lies the Island’ in 2012.  The book won the 2013 Dublin IMPAC literary award and it is the first time I have had cause to actually agree with the judges on their choice. Usually it’s the shortlisted runners up that I’ve thought were more deserving of the top spot. IMPAC is far from the world’s best known literary prize, but it is growing in recognition and stature behind its all conquering neighbour in the UK, the Man Booker. Thanks in part to it having the largest prize in the world of €100,000.

This maybe very different from any Irish book I’ve read before but its now one of the best. Firstly, Bohane itself is a mishmash of various other cities both fictional and real. It’s like Barry took Gotham, New York, Dublin and Paris then stitched them all together. This is not surprising as he lived in seventeen different places before he was thirty six years old, including Cork, Santa Barbara and Barcelona.  Bohane does seem to be set in an alternate universe, where there are no cars and very few pieces of technology like phones or TV’s but they have trucks and an ‘EL’ train. No guns either, all the fighting is done by hand or with knives.

One of the nicest things about the book is the language, its fruity to say the least and quite knackery. At first it’s hard to imagine where in Ireland you are, sometimes inner-city Dublin other times the west of Ireland. Phrases like “Sweet Baba Jay” when taking the lords name in vain reminded me of Hill Street Blues Lt. Hunter, who often exclaimed “Judas Priest!!!” or “Judas H, Christmas!!!” The down side to the rich flowery dialect is that it often slows the reader down as you try to translate what the characters are saying but don’t let that take anything from a warming and descriptive element of the book. It’s not surprising that this book wasn’t nominated by libraries from outside of Ireland for IMPAC, as with the release of the film The Commitments in the US, readers not acquainted or related with the Emerald Isle might require a small list of translations to help them on their journey through Bohane.

The book shows the influence of films such as Blade Runner and Sin City, owing to the very sepia styled imagery and gothic themes running through it. Also the Mad Max movie Beyond the Thunderdome came across to me as inspiration for one tribe WillyWonkacalled the “Sand Pikey’s” who live in the dunes outside the city. Meanwhile the whole gang rivalry storyline is rather weak and seems like a bad episode of the internationally acclaimed RTE hit ‘Love Hate’. However, it is emboldened by the vivid descriptions of the settings and the myriad of weird and wonderful characters, like the local paper Editor Dom Gleeson, his hunched back photographer, Mary Grimes and Logan’s two henchmen, Wolfie Stanners and Fucker Burke, while Hartnett comes across as a rather dandy character who dresses like Willy Wonka.

If this book was ever to be developed into a visual format, I could see it as a graphic novel initially. But you only have to see that graphic novels and darkly drawn comic heroes have an excellent track record in crossing over to the big screen. In an interview in 2012 Barry confirmed the book had been optioned and that he’s written a first draft of a script.

So take my advice, forget about packing your copy of lonely planet. put on your best Pikey or Oirish accent, along with a decent pair of knuckle dusters and prepare for a very enjoyable trip into the shadowy environs of Bohane.



100 namesA list of one hundred names is found in the files of a dead journalist, no one knows why the list has been compiled and none of the people on the list knows why they are on it or what connects them to each other. It’s up to a down on their luck investigative journalist to discover the truth, is it something sinister? The only person who knows is the daughter of a disgraced politician. Sound like the plot for a highly charged thriller? If Grisham, Patterson or one of the new batch of rising Swedish writers had gone to their publishers with it, they’d be biting their hands off to get it completed and published. But it’s not as it seems, the only part that’s true of the above is the daughter of a disgraced Irish politician, yep it’s the synopsis of Cecilia Ahern’s latest book One Hundred Names.

Kitty Logan’s best friend, boss and mentor Constance Dubois, is in the final throes of  her battle against cancer. When she asks her protégé to find a list in her office and tell their story. What kitty finds is a list of one hundred names and that’s it, no clue as to what the story is or why Constance had kept these names. But Kitty also has her own problems, she’s just been fired from her job on the national TV station in Ireland after she wrongfully accused a school teacher of having an affair, now someone’s targeting her flat with dog pooh and graffiti, which isn’t making her long term rental prospects look promising. On top of that her boyfriend has moved out and she’s getting it in the ear from her friends and being used and abused by other so called friends.

As for the list she can only get a small number of them to talk to her and they each have very differing stories and backgrounds. There’s Cecelia Ahern, Schriftstellerinan elderly lady cast aside by her family who plans to claim a bet placed years ago, a young woman who’s a carer for her invalided mother while also offering makeovers to the terminally ill. Then there’s a ex-con who thinks he hears peoples prayers, a woman who runs a butterfly farm but is too shy to accept an invite to address a group of fellow Lepidopterists from around the world, a couple who are forever blagging free meals and drinks by pretending to propose to each other as well as a two of immigrants who want to get into the Guinness book of records for being the fastest two men in a pedalo. Eventually this ragtag bunch and kitty head off on a mad cap road trip. While all along Kitty’s  editor on the monthly magazine that Constance ran is pressurizing her with a deadline, to write these stories as a  tribute piece to her late friend. Can she do it?

I have to hand it to Cecelia; she’s gone from strength to strength since writing P.S. I Love you in 2004. Followed up with a movie deal and a reasonably successful American sitcom,  as well as the subsequent eight other books she’s written. All along she’s tried to avoid the moniker of “Chic Lit” Author. But with this outing it is nothing more then a jog down a well worn “Chic-lit” path.

The title it’s self is misleading as she never even goes near one hundred names, eight is the most. So why she didn’t call it ten names – fifty names. In my view I think she bit off more than she could chew but her editor thought ah, 100 sounds interesting. Yes it does, but at least have Kitty  interact with half the names on the list.

pedaloAs for the stories of the eight, they’re plausible to an extent. I couldn’t see any self respecting immigrant or native for that matter trying to break a 100m pedalo dash for the Guinness book of records. Okay so people do some strange things to get mentioned in the fabled book, but a pedalo dash.

Then there’s the couple who go around different bars and restaurants faking grandiose proposals to gain free meals and drinks. this would irritate me in real life and did so in the book. Okay so their story is all about the girl in the partnership who longs for the proposal to be real for once, but they just came across as shallow.

As I write, Film adaptations of two of her other books have just finished shooting in Ireland, I love Rosie – based on her novel Where Rainbows End and Romantic Road an original TV script. I hope to god they’ve made a better interpretation of Where rainbows end then they did of P.S. I Love You.

ps i love u pster

So if you’re an ardent fan of Cecelia, then anything I say is not going to dissuade you from parting with your cash for this book, otherwise take my advice go read or watch John Buchan’s  The Thirty Nine Steps , Jules Verne’s  Around The World in 80 Days  or The Forty Five Guardsmen by Dumas.

(First published  2013)



Mistaken cvrThey say everyone has a double in the world. Even if it’s from behind, we’ve often heard stories of people running up to total strangers, tapping them on the shoulder and greeting them like long lost friends. Only for the stranger to turn around and leave the greeter stumped and embarrassed when they realise they’re facing a total stranger. I’ve done it myself, with some very embarrassing consequences.  This is the premise for Irish Film director Neil Jordan’s fifth book “Mistaken”.

Kevin Thunder has a look-a-like, Gerald Spain; they live on different sides of Dublin city. Kevin lives on the Northside and Gerald on the Southside.  But Kevin is forever being mistaken for Gerald, he’s thrown out of amusement arcades, accused of shoplifting and meets girls Gerald has dated and who mistake him for the Southside charmer, eventually he deliberately starts interloping into Gerald’s life. Kevin’s life is that of an only child to a near permanently absent bookmaker father and a loving mother who goes swimming daily and takes in lodgers in a house next door to where Bram Stoker lived.

Gerald grows up in an affluent family on the Southside where he goes to one of the best schools in Ireland and goes on to be a famous writer. We then through the eyes of Kevin and his recanting to Emily, Gerald’s daughter retrace their strange lives and how their paths criss-crossed over the years for good and bad.

The book was recently presented to my local book group and it is a great read, this being echoed by the majority of the group. I found it a nice easy read with a great tour round almost every part of Dublin and a few foreign places. As you would expect from an accomplished film director and scriptwriter it is well written. I found it strangely erotic in his descriptions of the central characters shared romantic involvement, more so then Fifty Shades. Also it’s a very exciting concept, innocently walking into someone else’s life pretending to be them and successfully carrying it off without even trying, it’s like a voyeurs wet dream.


Of the two main characters, Gerald is rather washed over, and so are his family, but there is a good explanation for this. The story jumps back and forth through time and geographically when told through one main character, if we’d had it told through both characters the reader would have probably got confused very quickly and given up on the book, this is something Jordan has learned from his film work and from the basic premise of all story telling, “KISS” – keep it simple stupid.

You do start to wonder how these two can look so a like and there were thoughts of something a kin to the “Time Travellers wife” by Audrey Niffenegger or the result of weird medical experiments, when all in all it’s actually a rather mundane reason for their shared resemblances. The minor downsides to this book are some very woefully editing, which was picked by other members of the book group, including the misspelling of the name of a very well known Italian restaurant in Dublin and the re-routing of a certain bus route in south Dublin.

There are a couple of characters who should maybe have been cut from the story in the drafting process, namely Daragh a friend of Kevin’s who suffers a breakdown after getting caught up in their sordid double life and the recurring ghost of Bram Stoker which does nothing to drive the story on.

Overall this is a great read from a master story-teller of the celluloid Neil jordanand print genres, so open this book and let your voyeuristic side out and lose yourself in the back waters and thoroughfares of  Dublin’s fair city.

(First published  2012)