Author: John Banville
Genre: Adult – Mystery
Reviewer: Kevin – Athy / Castledermot Library
Synopsis: While spending some rest time at his fathers’ home, D.I. St John Strafford is directed to attend the horrific murder of Ballyglass parish priest Tom Lawless; whose body was found at the home of the once influential family of Ballyglass; The Osborne’s. Not only has Strafford to deal with the worst winter weather the country has seen in decades; he has to deal with suspects which are colder than the weather outside and the fear of the Catholic Church interfering due to the death of a priest. Can Strafford finally make a breakthrough before the country like this murder is covered and forgotten about?
Once again, John Banville has created a story and characters that feel so real that its scary. He brings the reader to an Ireland in the 1950’s which itself is still struggling with its identity. This identity predicament is shown through the main character of Strafford, a young Protestant inspector in a majority Catholic police force and the Osborne family who still try to hold onto the influence that the Big House once held in the countryside through the father Colonel Osborne. Banville also introduces the reader to the real power behind the young Republic of the day and that is Archbishop John Charles McQuaid who with just a word could raise or ruin the career of any man; a warning that Strafford received from Hackett.
The plot and the storyline are just perfect as it allows the reader to follow every step of the investigation and get to learn each character and what they are hiding from the outside world. Even today, the plot is still relevant and the story and parts in it will touch many of the readers who pick up this wonderful book. I think myself that Banville handled a sensitive storyline with great passion. I cannot recommend this book enough and I hope that Banville will continue with the character of Strafford and the struggles that 1950’s Ireland will throw at him and those around him.