If you don't know Irish detective Peter McGarr, this terrific novel from 1989 is a great introduction! Where else but Dublin might you find a James Joyce scholar dead, and McGarr and the Murder Squad of the Garda Siochana reading Ulysses, and occasionally Samuel Beckett, in an effort to understand what led to his death? Including brief quotations from Ulysses in this novel, Gill locates the action in places which are significant in Ulysses, talks about Finnegan's Wake, and even discusses "the novel of competence," represented by Joyce, as opposed to "the novel of incompetence," represented by Samuel Beckett, making these esoteric subjects comprehensible and intriguing.
Dublin throbs with life here, in the pubs, on the streets, in the university, and at galleries, the Shelbourne Hotel, and St. Michan's church. The action is robust, with many fights, fractures, and a few hospitalizations, as McGarr and his detectives concentrate more on justice than on the niceties of procedure. The characters we know from earlier novels are further developed here (and continue into later novels).
As always, Gill includes lively and wonderfully droll conversations--the teasing and byplay one expects of close and caring relationships--both at home and at the Garda station. And when Det. Hugh Ward and Det. Ruthie Bresnahan finally discover each other, one of the highlights of this novel, their scenes become both hilarious and steamy. Gill's excellent satire (the Beautiful People at a book-launching), his wonderful sense of the absurd (the murder victim's wife bringing the victim home, laying him in bed, and contacting McGarr only after he starts to "go off"), and his uncanny ability to create quirky and likable characters make this one of the best novels in this remarkable series. Mary Whipple