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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Four Courts Murder, by Andrew Nugent (c2005)

I wish this book were more readily available. Unfortunately, in the U.S., we must scrounge up the few used St. Martin's hardcovers floating around.

Andrew Nugent was an Irish lawyer and he is now an Irish monk. This is a terrific, well-written book that mostly deals with law, but also has a monk peripherally thrown in for good measure. That's an author using what he knows!

Denis Lennon and Molly Powers are police detectives in Dublin. They are charged with figuring out who murdered Judge Piggott in his chambers in the Four Courts. The honorable judge, they discover, was not always on the right side of the law, nor was he particularly honorable. They slowly uncover the layers of Piggott's life and meet the unsavory and confused characters who populate the judge's world.

It is not so much the plot that charms, although it is quite absorbing, but the writing, the characters, and the human sensibility that underlies the story. These transcend what is usually offered in the mystery genre.

Here is an excerpt, which was chosen at random and that's possible because he's that good:

"Irish people love going to law. In some parts of the country, one routinely sues one's neighbor every few years. At appropriate intervals, one's neighbor sues one back. It is the done thing."

And again:

"Unfortunately, so to speak, the infant plaintiff herself had suffered no ill effects [of cockroaches in baby food] whatsoever. Indeed, on the evidence of a bugs-and-beetles professor produced by the manufacturers of the baby food, cockroaches are perfectly harmless, full of protein, and probably quite palatable. The professor [who was testifying], who looked strangely like a beetle himself, even suggested that mothers could do worse than to feed their babies on cockroaches all the time."


"The local farmers were anything but enthusiastic about the Holy Family Halting Site [for Gypsy encampments], and were nothing comforted when legitimate complaints were received with homiletic references to the hard-hearted innkeepers of Bethlehem. The scriptural allusion was not only insulting it was also counterproductive, reminding the stout farmers of the midlands that, if they did not particularly relish seeing 'tinkers' in their local pubs by day, they absolutely hated like hell finding them in their stables in the middle of the night."

Not bad for random picks.

Scrounge and scour to find a copy!

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