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Recently Published Books
of Irish Interest

Reviews by Darina Molloy

Big Girl Small Town

by Michelle Gallen

Writer Sinead Moriarty has probably gifted Big Girl Small Town with the best synopsis ever – “Milkman meets Derry Girls. A cracking read’ – which is proudly emblazoned on the Irish version of the cover. Majella is one of those outliers – ignored by most people, and reasonably content to potter on with her life. She lives with her alcoholic mother, works in the local chipper, and obsesses over the lives of Bobby, Sue Ellen, and Pam in her wall-to-wall Dallas reruns. She keeps herself to herself, has no friends and no boyfriend, and she thinks her life is the better for it. But when her grandmother dies and the will reveals a couple of surprises, Majella soon finds that she is the object of everyone’s curiosity. Initially, she hates the attention, but she soon realises that maybe she can change her life for the better. Reminiscent of Roddy Doyle’s dialogue-driven work, this is a really fantastic debut novel from an author we’ll definitely be watching out for. Paperback, 320 pages

The Searcher

by Tana French

Cal Hooper, a retired Chicago cop, has thrown himself into the job of renovating his newly-purchased rural Irish home. The house needs a lot of work, and he’s happy to spend time at it. He’s the typical outsider in a small community but is grudgingly accepted for the most part. When a local lad goes missing, after one or two dodgy incidents, Cal is persuaded to come on board by another member of the family. Trey knows that older brother Brendan would never have left without saying goodbye. Their mother Sheila is doing her best to raise her five children alone, but they are flying under the radar for much of the time. The last thing Hooper wants is to get involved, but he can’t help himself. He’s also trying to mend fences with his daughter – no mean feat from 3,000 miles away. A most unusual Tana French novel – not remotely like her earlier Dublin Murders series. Hardcover, 464 pages

Snow

by John Banville

John Banville has apparently retired his crime fiction nom de plume (Benjamin Black) and plans to release any upcoming books in the series under his own name. Fans of Black/Banville’s Quirke series will be disappointed to discover that the Dublin-based pathologist does not appear in Snow, as he is away on honeymoon. But Detective Inspector St John Strafford is a worthy stand-in. There are plot aspects strongly redolent of the Fr. Niall Molloy case which gripped Ireland in 1985 – mysterious death of a priest in the house of friends, and a shared interest in horses, to name but a few shared features of both cases. In this case, however, the violent death occurs in the family seat of the aristocratic Osborne family, in 1950s Wexford. Strafford is finding resentment wherever he goes – his junior officers object to him, a Protestant, occupying such a lofty rank, while his superior officer doesn’t like Strafford’s insistence on questioning why details of the death are being deliberately concealed from the public.  If you like your thrillers brooding and atmospheric, then this is definitely a worthy addition to your reading pile. Hardcover, 255 pages

The Law of Innocence

by Michael Connelly

When defense attorney Mickey Haller is pulled over by the police on his way home after winning his latest case, he is sandbagged by the discovery of a dead body in the trunk of his car. Not just any body – the man is a former client of Haller’s and they parted ways after one too many unpaid bills. Haller knows the law and he knows he will be charged with murder. The quicker he can prove his innocence, the quicker he can get on with his life. But in order to do this, he’s going to have to spend time behind bars – his insistence on a speedy trial means he waives his right to an affordable bail. Having to prepare his defense behind bars is quite the challenge, but Haller is determined to find out who has framed him for the murder. He doesn’t just want a ‘not guilty’ verdict, he wants to prove his innocence. Teasing around the edges of the story, we hear about a brand new virus that started in Wuhan, which sounds all too familiar. This is Michael Connelly at his gilt-edged best – a must for fans of the Lincoln Lawyer series. Hardcover, 433 pages

The Pull of the Stars

by Emma Donoghue

“Dublin was a great mouth holed with missing teeth” (because of all the shop and business closures due to the pandemic … of 1918). Holy moly, this book. You might end up reading it, as I did, with a 2020 pandemic checklist buzzing around in your head. Strange times? Yup, they’re mentioned. Quarantining? Mm-hmm. Cover up each cough or sneeze? Included. Everyone must pull together? Yup, gotcha. Cleaning one’s hands thoroughly could save a life? Yes, indeed, they were just as well schooled in the basics in 1918 as we have been in the past five months or so. Julia Power is a nurse who works in a city centre hospital, caring for pregnant women who have come down with the dreaded flu. The virus has dreadful repercussions for expectant mothers and Julia doesn’t have the luxury of lots of help. Mayo’s own Dr. Kathleen Lynn (described by one character in the book as “a vicar’s daughter from Mayo gone astray – a socialist, suffragette, anarchist firebrand!”) is efficient and encourages Nurse Power to think for herself, while young volunteer helper Bridie Sweeney is in awe of Julia’s ability to read her patients and decide on the best course of action in trying circumstances. If you are currently choosing your reading material as a means of completely escaping our current circumstances, this may not be the book for you. But it is a comforting reminder that the more life changes, the more things stay the same. Hardcover, 295 pages

Little Cruelties

by Liz Nugent

Liz Nugent has firmly established herself in the ‘must read’ category of Irish thriller writers, and within the subsection of Irish women writers who are responsible for a large chunk of the best of those thrillers, she is fast becoming the queen of the killer first line. Her latest novel is no exception: “All three of the Drumm brothers were at the funeral, although one of us was in a coffin.” What a hook! The three Drumm brothers are William, Brian and Luke and it’s a toss-up as to which of them is the biggest, well, tosser. Not that it’s entirely their fault, their narcissistic mother didn’t do such a great job when they were children and has continued to put herself first – while sniping at the rest of the family – as they’ve grown. Consequentially, they have difficulty maintaining relationships, and constantly betray each other in ways both small and massive. Hardcover, 384 pages

The Nothing Man

by Catherine Ryan Howard

Eve Black was the only survivor of a dreadful crime that saw her parents and younger sister killed on a night she can never forget. Now she’s written a true crime memoir about the murderer, dubbed The Nothing Man by press at the time. Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle (apparently born in Castlebar, but we might not want to shout about that too loudly!) is reading Eve’s book and it’s making him furious. That’s because Jim is The Nothing Man. And he’ll stop at nothing to shut Eve up. Catherine Ryan Howard has taken the popular demand for true crime stories and turned it on its head in this neat, book-within-a-book crime novel. The reader races through Eve’s memoir, just as eager as Jim Doyle to find out how much she knows.  Hardcover, 288 pages

A Rip in Heaven

by Jeanine Cummins

On the back of her huge publishing success with American Dirt, author Jeanine Cummins has seen her three previous books re-released in a very short space of time. Two are novels – both with strong Irish connections – and the third, A Rip in Heaven, is an intensely personal memoir “of a murder and its aftermath.” On a visit to their cousins in Missouri as teenagers, Cummins’ older brother Tom snuck out of the house one night to meet two of his cousins – Julie and Robin – so they could show him Julie’s poetry on a disused bridge over the Mississippi. The three were assaulted by a group of youths, and when Tom managed to escape and flag down a passing car for help, he thought the nightmare was coming to an end. But the police thought otherwise and held him on suspicion of murder. Unlike many true-crime memoirs of its ilk, the writing is quite restrained – Cummins lets the awfulness of the story speak for itself.  Paperback, 336 pages

4 Responses to “Recently Published Books
of Irish Interest”

  1. Jean Mahoney says:

    I recommend the book “Brave Hearts-A San Francisco Story-The Grit and Dreams of an Irish Immigrant Family” This is wonderful book about the Irish In America. It has gotten many five star reviews and is available now on the website above

  2. Terry Kenneally says:

    In your current list of books I have read/reviewed The Pull of the Stars and The Searcher for a book reveiw article I do each month for the Ohio Irish American News. An upcoming edition (published monthly) will be Snow.
    Current edition contains my review of Graham Norton’s recent book, Coming Home. It is the third book I have reviewed of his and they are all excellent. Terry Kenneally

  3. John Killeen says:

    Hi Darina,
    I published a book ‘One for Sorrow, Two for Joy’ in June 2020. It’s about growing up in Ireland in the 1950s and so far it has got 5-star reviews on Amazon and similar rating on Goodreads as follows:
    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3698796704
    I think it would certainly be of interest to your readers. Could I ask you to review it here? Thanks.
    John Killeen

  4. Why isn’t my book: “Irish Immigration to Latin America,” referenced? How many books are written about the above subject? Having spent a lot of time travelling through and working in South and Central America, I can’t figure out how it would not be of interest to Irish readers. I just regard ignoring it as a slap in the face.
    Sincerely, Harry Dunleavy

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