The thought of assembling a cast of farcical characters in a secluded castle representing all different viewpoints in the Anglo-Irish struggle had a great deal of promise in the beginning. In fact, when I read the first chapter or so, I had high hopes for a brilliant lampoon of all aspects of Irish and English society. But then the very one-sided political views of the author began to intrude on the novel. She is obviously very pro-British and pro-Unionist in her views, and anyone on the Irish nationalist side or any who are too close to them are either fools or villains in her view. In fact, the only criticism lobbed at any of the British characters is that they are too wimpy and give in to the "ridiculous demands" of the Irish nationalists (or "killers and mass murderers" as Ms. Edwards puts it.) The Unionists and Orangemen are all shown to be noble, upstanding characters (though somewhat eccentric), except for one who gets too close to the nationalists and gets murdered for his trouble. Outlandish characters like an Indian and a Japanese are shown to be wise men, even though vilified by racial epithets by the British baroness in charge of the conference in the castle. But of the four Irish nationalists or sympathizers in the plot, all are evil hypocrites or utter fools. Three are killed off in the plot and one later on, to show that "the only good Nationalist is a dead one" apparently. Various conference events provoke arguments amongst the attendees, and of course the views of the Irish are ridiculed. The author goes so far as to claim that the Irish Potato Famine was not an example of British inhumanity, but just "a spot of bad management". Sorry, but an event that left over 1 million people starving to death while the ample foodstuffs in the island were exported to England for sale does not qualify as "bad management". The word "genocide" comes to mind instead. She also blithely claims that the Protestant population in the Republic of Ireland was mostly wiped out through massacre, which is patently absurd. And her defense of British colonialism as a "beneficent policy" makes her look foolish. Perhaps she should have had her Indian character explain why, if British rule in India was so beneficial, the Indian population couldn't wait to kick the British out.
While I appreciated the farcical elements (like naming many of the lesser characters after famous Irish patriots) and enjoyed a few of the characters' foibles, the author's polemics against the entire Irish race and against the Catholic Church in particular ruined the book for me. Even the Irish characters who were not villains were maligned in some way, as with one who is shown to be an absolute alcoholic. Sorry, Ms. Edwards, but a good political lampoon coupled with a mystery (and the mystery part of the story is barely developed at all) requires the author satirizing characters on all sides on a fairly equal basis, not just savaging the ones whose political views you disagree with. (By the way, when you refer to the Northern Ireland nationalists as mass murderers and criminals, I might point out that twice as many Catholics were murdered in the Troubles by the British Army, the highly-prejudiced Protestant police force and the Protestant paramilitary groups as Protestants were killed by the IRA and their supporters. So it would seem the government and their supporters were mass murderers and criminals too.)
It could have been an excellent book, but the one-sided nature of the presentation made it seem in the end like something the Rev. Ian Paisley might have produced had he over-indulged at the pub one Saturday night.