Review of Latest Irish and Irish-American Books


– Kara Rota
     (65 pages / W.W. Norton / $13.95)


Peter Quinn’s The Man Who Never Returned is a page-turner noir novel based on the true unsolved mystery of New York State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Force Crater’s disappearance on August 6, 1930. Fintan Dunne, the detective who readers will recognize from Quinn’s Hour of the Cat, has retired to a life of leisure with his beloved wife in Florida when a mysterious phone call pulls him back into the irresistible draw of New York and its uncovered secrets. He takes on an assignment from media tycoon Walter Wilkes to solve a 25-year-old case that the police have long given up on. As Dunne becomes further entangled into a web of dead ends, unconnected leads, deceptive testimonies and Wilkes’ femme fatale assistant, Adrienne Renard, Quinn masterfully crafts a forceful narrative whose revealing ending doesn’t disappoint.

– Kara Rota
(336 pages / Overlook / $24.95)

The latest installment in Declan Hughes’s series of novels featuring Dublin private investigator Ed Loy, The City of Lost Girls is a fast-paced crime novel about a serial killer in post-Celtic Tiger Dublin that had my interest from the very first page. Hughes opens with the serial killer’s internal dialogue, sending immediate shivers down your spine and setting the stage for an exciting 300 pages. The author’s use of language and perspective propels the story forward and is at times quite beautiful. Although the story is mainly about stopping the killer, the moments when the characters pause to contemplate their city and its financial troubles allow for intermittent commentary on the state of modern Dublin. With its fast-paced plot, lovely language and well-drawn characters, City of Lost Girls is immensely satisfying.                              

       – Anne Thompson
(304 pages / William Morrow / $24.99)


Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist who has made a career out of recording the history of the Troubles and of the Provisional IRA. In 1999, Moloney faced possible jail time when he refused to hand over notes he had made from an interview with British soldier Billy Stobie regarding Pat Finucane’s murder. Despite this incident, Moloney has continued writing about the Troubles in his latest book, Voices from the Grave. Funded by Boston College, the sizable tome recounts IRA and UVF activity from the late 60s up to the Good Friday Agreement through the eyes of IRA operative Brendan Hughes and politician and UVF figure David Ervine. Combining large sections of candid interviews with Hughes and Ervine, who remember these events with astonishing detail, with precise historical context, Moloney’s journalistic style pairs well with the jarring pictures of violence provided by his interviewees. Particularly interesting is Brendan Hughes’ description of Provisional IRA activity that has been kept secret for years, including Gerry Adams’ involvement with the group, a detail that Adams has fervently denied. Both Hughes and Ervine are now dead, making Voices from the Grave a definitive historical text in that, as the blurb on the book jacket suggests, these men “had nothing to lose by telling the truth.” With few other recorded examples of paramilitary figures discussing the destruction and killings surrounding the Troubles, Voices from the Grave is an important addition to its field and an engrossing read.

– Aliah O’Neill
(512 pages / Public Affairs / $19.95)

From rags to riches, Sir Thomas Lipton personified the American dream of making it big. Born in the slums of 19th century Glasgow, Lipton sailed to the U.S. as a boy. His story, in which Lipton eventually established himself as a millionaire sportsman mingling with Wall Street elite and European royalty, is finally told by Michael D’Antonio in A Full Cup: Sir Thomas Lipton’s Extraordinary Life and His Quest for America’s Cup. D’Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, vibrantly describes Lipton as an affable raconteur whose incredible life was the product of hard work and good service. Once in the U.S., Lipton opened a chain of grocery stores and gained international success and wealth as the creator of his namesake tea.

The true focus of the book is Lipton’s desire to win the America’s Cup sailing regatta. Winning the match to secure the coveted cup, the oldest trophy in international sports, would be Lipton’s last adventure, and though he participated in the event five times, he never won. Already famous in his day, Lipton became the underdog of the contest and charmed the American public despite his losses. D’Antonio, with great admiration for Lipton’s unwavering spirit, writes A Full Cup in light of this underdog quality, depicting Lipton’s ascent to fame as inspirational and worth celebrating.