"The Walking People," by Mary Beth Keane, a writer to watch out for

The Walking People

In her first novel “The Walking People,” Mary Beth Keane covers some of the same territory as Colm Toibin does in his new book “Brooklyn.”

The book opens with a detailed description of Irish immigrant Michael Ward’s last day of work as a New York City sandhog – a laborer who digs water tunnels deep under the earth.

But then “The Walking People” travels back to 1950s Ireland, and we learn about Ward’s youth, as well as the life of the woman who would ultimately become his wife.

Keane has produced a highly impressive debut, spanning 50 years of family tragedies, triumphs and secrets. 

Never sentimental or shocking, “The Walking People” is an intricate rendering of complicated lives, filled with suppressed desires and glimmers of hope. 

Particularly interesting are the sections in which Keane explores the electrification of rural Ireland in the 1960s. Meanwhile, as fascinating as Keane’s characters are, her research is also impressive. The details of “The Walking People” – from the labors of sandhogs to the traditions of the Irish travelers – ring true.

Overall, “The Walking People” shows Mary Beth Keane to be a writer to watch. 

($25 / 392 pages / Houghton Mifflin)


The Swan Maiden

In her novel “The Swan Maiden,” Jules Watson tells the famous Irish story of Deirdre, who some call the Helen of Troy of Ulster. Deirdre is the woman whose beauty may bring ruin to the kingdom of Ulster and its ruler, Conor.  Watson, an acclaimed Celtic historian, renders Deirdre’s coming-of-age as a process of liberation.  She is a child of nature who rebels when she is treated as a possession.

This fierce spirit, combined with her beauty, ultimately unleashes warfare as if it were fated by the gods.

At times a bit overblown, “The Swan Maiden” is nevertheless a fine updating of this timeless tale. 

($12 / 540 pages / Bantam Spectra)


Angels of Destruction

Keith Donohue’s first novel, “The Stolen Child,” was a surprise bestseller. His follow-up, “Angels of Destruction,” opens at the home of an elderly Irish-American woman named Margaret Quinn, who lives with the fact that her child ran away from home years ago to join a radical group.

One night, when there is a knock at Margaret’s door, an old hope – that her daughter has returned – is revived.  But instead, it is a nine-year-old girl at the door – who just might be Margaret’s granddaughter.

Donohue (who recently wrote an Introduction to a new edition of writings by Flann O’Brien) constructs a fascinating story about fantasy and reality, politics and history, with “Angels of Destruction.”

($24 / 368 pages / Shaye Areheart Books)


Just Take My Heart

The Irish-American queen of murder mystery is back. “Just Take My Heart” is a new thriller by Mary Higgins Clark, and dabbles in the sci-fi notion of personality changes springing from donated organs.

Clark’s story begins with two struggling theater actresses, Natalie and Jamie, the latter of whom once had an affair with a married man.

Years later, Natalie is found dead – following a chance meeting with the married man.

It is up to Emily Wallace, a young prosecutor, to sort through the suspects and motives when Natalie’s estranged husband is accused of the murder.

But Wallace herself becomes endangered when, as she’s researching for the trial, she becomes too trusting of a neighbor. We also find out that she is a donor recipient, which may or may not explain some of her strange recent behavior. 

Once again, Clark, whose books have sold over 85 million copies in the U.S. alone, has produced a satisfying mystery. 

($25.95 / 322 pages / Simon & Schuster)



Meanwhile, Carol Higgins Clark – Mary’s daughter – also has a new book out – “Cursed,” a Regan Reilly mystery.

Reilly, a private investigator, has moved to New York City from L.A. to be with her husband, the head of the New York Police Department’s Major Case Squad. 

Soon enough, Regan is drawn back to the West Coast. A friend calls and tells Regan she believes that her entire life is “cursed.” (The friend was born on Friday the 13th, after all.)

It is a lover who “borrowed” $100,000 from the cursed woman, which drags Regan back into the L.A. underworld – and may also get Regan herself hurt. 

($25 / 242 pages / Scribner)


In A Gilded Cage

Finally, don’t miss Rhys Bowen’s latest “Molly Murphy” mystery “In A Gilded Cage.” 

Once again, Bowen sets a thrilling plot amidst the history of early 20th-century New York, when women were fighting for the vote and the automobile was just beginning to clog the streets of Manhattan. 

($24.95 / 276 pages / Minotaur)