N Ireland

The Disenchanted Widow – Christina McKenna

Posted in N Ireland, Proofs on August 22nd, 2013 by admin – 2 Comments

The Disenchanted Widow

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing (27 Aug 2013)
    Source – Amazon Vine
    My Rating – 3.5 stars

Having thoroughly enjoyed Christina McKenna’s previous novel, The Misremembered Man, I was eager to read her latest offering, also set in the fictional rural Northern Ireland village, Tailorstown.

It is 1981, the height of The Troubles and the imminent deaths of the IRA Hunger Strikers are aggravating an already tense political situation.  Recently widowed Bessie Lawless is on the run, pursued by the “Dentist”, an IRA enforcer whose torture methods are renowned.  Bessie’s feckless, abusive husband thought he could swindle the Dentist but now it’s payback time and Bessie is the target.  She ends up in Tailorstown with her unruly 9 year old son, Herkie (Hercules), in  tow.  Is Tailorstown ready for this brash blonde?

As in her previous novel, the author highlights the comic elements of rural life with all its quirks including the local gossips who have a field day when Bessie arrives.  Although there are allusions to the Troubles, the emphasis is on the peculiarities of village life where the local parish priest is revered.  The characters occasionally veer into pantomime territory but this is a light, heartwarming read which will appeal to fans of Alexander McCall Smith – indeed, Bessie could be the Irish version of Precious Ramotswe!


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Ghost Moth – Michele Forbes

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, N Ireland, Proofs on August 3rd, 2013 by admin – 1 Comment


Ghost Moth

Publisher – W&N


Ghost Moth

Publisher – Bellevue Literary Press












Amazon Vine

My Rating
4 stars – one to watch


Ghost Moth is the debut novel of Michele Forbes, an Irish actress who has already written several critically acclaimed short stories.

Overall, I  found this a very promising debut novel with flashes of brilliance and a poetic heart at its core.  It’s a deeply moving examination of the minutiae of everyday life parts of which echo the author’s own life experiences.  There are two narrative strands,  both set  in Belfast ; the first  in 1949 where a young woman, Katherine Fallon, finds her pleasant relationship with the sure and steady George Bedford is shaken when she meets the charismatic tailor, Thomas McKinley. In the 1969 story we know that she is married to George and has four children but is it a marriage of convenience?

I loved the 1969 story, with the unsettled nature of the Bedfords’ relationship mirroring the uncertainty of a city on the brink of civil war. George, in his role as a part-time fire fighter, sees the burgeoning violence first-hand.  Elsa, Katherine’s youngest daughter, faces increasing hostility from other local children as the Bedfordshire are Catholics in a predominantly Protestant neighbourhood. Forbes excels at portraying the ebb and flow of family life : a day trip to the seaside, a back garden fair to raise funds for the “black babies”, how to find your role within the family.  In the midst of  all this change Katherine seems stuck in the past, unable to move forward.

The 1949 Katherine is a totally different character, embarking on an affair despite being happily settled with George after a two year relationship. You know it will all end badly but it is difficult to feel sympathy for Katherine and nigh impossible to work out what motivates her to make these life choices besides  just drifting into them.

The Bedfords seem like an ordinary family but within their “ordinariness” you will find extraordinary ripples making you think of the nature of love – between mother and child, between husband and wife, between siblings.  Does love have to be showy and passionate to survive the passing years?  Forbes makes you see under the surface, to what really matters.

I really enjoyed this condidently written debut novel and found some sections extremely moving especially towards the end of the story.   Some parts, especially in the early stages,  seemed overwritten and this had a jarring effect on the flow of the novel but fortunately this was the exception rather than the rule.  I am looking forward to reading more from this very talented author.

PS Which cover do you prefer?  Am I alone in having an extreme dislike of the one on the right??


Michelle Forbes

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Collusion – Stuart Neville

Posted in Crime Thriller, N Ireland on September 20th, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

Synopsis from www.stuartneville.com

Former paramilitary killer Gerry Fegan wanders New York City, hiding from a past he escaped at terrible cost. But he made a fatal mistake: he spared the life of Bull O’Kane, a ruthless man who will stop at nothing to get his revenge. Too many witnesses survived a bloody battle at his border farm, and now he wants them silenced, whether man, woman or child. O’Kane calls the Traveller, an assassin without pity or remorse, a killer of the purest kind.

Back in Belfast, Detective Inspector Jack Lennon, father of one the witnesses, is caught up in a web of official secrets and lies as he tries to uncover the whereabouts of his daughter. The closer he gets to the truth about the events on O’Kane’s border farm, the more his superiors instruct him to back off.

When Fegan realises he can’t shake off the trail of violence that has followed him across the world, he has no choice but to return to Belfast and confront his past. The Traveller awaits Fegan’s return, ready for the fight of his life.

My husband, the Lovely Bry reviewed Stuart Neville’s debut novel The Twelve here last year.  Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to read it as it was lent out to friends who lent it to other friends etc etc.  However, this time I was determined not to miss out so as soon as Bry turned the last page I snatched the book and devoured it in just one day, taking time out only to see that the children were fed and watered – it was really unputdownable.

I have been assured by Bry that Collusion is an even better read than The Twelve and that you can see how Neville has improved his writing, tightening up the narrative, using short chapters which crank up the tension to an almost unbearable level.  Gerry Fegan and the mysterious Traveller both have a slightly supernatural element about them – Gerry is still haunted by his turbulent past as a paramilitary killer but retains his aura of invincibility.  Is The Traveller his nemesis? 

It’s not a clearcut case of good versus evil here as the baddies far outnumber the goodies and each character is fully fleshed, flaws and all.  You really don’t know who to trust from one minute to the next. DI Jack Lennon is a really engaging character.  He’d given up so much in order to join the police at a time when Catholic recruits were few and far between and now his once respected superiors seem enmeshed in the filthy mess of collusion – loyalists and republicans even helping each other if there’s money to be made.  

In short, a thrilling, taut read – not for those of a nervous disposition or those who object to “strong” language.  I’m really looking forward to Stolen Souls, another thriller featuring Jack Lennon, somehow I don’t think he’s going to get the  quiet life he’d hoped for!

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