Go to Homepage   Bartholomew Gill: Death in Dublin


Crescent Blues Book ViewsWilliam Morrow (Hardcover), ISBN 0-06-000849-0
Bartholomew Gill (real name Mark McGarrity) died in the summer of 2002, and so this posthumous novel is presumably the last in his popular sequence about Dublin cop Peter McGarr -- unless McGarrity left further unpublished manuscripts, or unless the publisher commissions another author to continue the series.

Book: BArtholomew gill,death in dublin
Thieves steal The Book of Kells and a couple of other manuscripts from Trinity College, Dublin, leaving behind a gruesomely murdered security chief. The authorities initially lay responsibility at the feet of an obscure pro-Celtic-Golden-Age-That-Never-Was secret society, the New Druids. Video tapes, seemingly from the society, demand a ransom, reinforcing this suspicion.

But is it all really so simple? McGarr, recovering from two years of widowerhood, doubts it even as he falls for the sensual lures of one of the key witnesses, Kara. He doubts it even more as Chicago-gangster-style violence erupts on the Dublin streets, as the body count of gorily murdered tangential characters mounts, as he goes back for a further bout of uninhibited passion with the sophisticated Kara, whom he can hardly credit would be interested in a gnarly old street cop like himself, as…

This last novel in the series was in fact my first -- alas, most probably my last, too. It entertains but in a rather superficial way. If there are hidden depths to the tale and its recounting then I missed them. And by about one-quarter of the way through, credulity begins to be stretched beyond breaking point. No. I can't believe either that Kara would throw herself wantonly at McGarr; even less can I believe that her behavior wouldn't make him smell a very large rat. I can't believe Dubliners would be so blasé about the explosion of shoot-ups in their city, or about the grandiosely staged serial murders.

Book: Bartholowmew gill, death of an irish lass
To be true, the book shows people glued to the TV news, but there's no sense that, say, they're taking such precautions as staying indoors a lot. I didn't much believe in any of the characters, from the Irish taoiseach and McGarr's dimwit, publicity-seeking rival superintendent on down -- with the exception of McGarr himself, his immediately family and a muckraking journalist, who Gill handled well. And, while it's many a year since last I was in that city, I didn't even find myself believing in the Dublin setting.

A further annoyance: the publisher presumably felt so reverential toward its deceased author's sacrosanct words that numerous hasty first-draft clumsinesses are evident: "The others were staring at him, one man even having rose from his seat to get a better look;" "McGarr knew other people who had suffered losses as great as he is but whose hobbies had given them succor and solace"; and so on

I suspect Gill fans will enjoy this novel as the completion of the saga. For the rest of us, this is a book to be borrowed from the library as a way of passing a no more than moderately enjoyable evening.

John Grant

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