Death Writes (6) (An Inishowen Mystery)
“Neatly blending the legal thriller, the rural police procedural, and rich Irish life into this novel is quite an achievement.”
The sixth Inishowen crime novel from Andrea Carter opens with solicitor Ben (Benedicta) O’Keefe racing toward her parents’ Dublin home after a message that the aging couple seems to have been invaded by a group of strangers living with them—and her parents aren’t answering their phones. Fortunately, Ben’s got a steady relationship with Tom Molloy, a police sergeant, and he’s the one driving. It will be a strange way to introduce Molloy to her parents, but with visions of her parents being taken hostage or even just brainwashed, backup from law enforcement feels totally necessary.
Before Ben can get to the bottom of what her close-mouthed parents have tangled up with, the presence of police on the premises spooks the man who appears to have been forcing them to share their home. Though her parents still won’t explain, she persuades them to come visit her own place, four hours’ drive away, and stay with her for a bit. The best tool for persuasion turns out to be a literary festival in her town of Glendara on Ireland’s Inishowen peninsula; the event promises a rare public appearance of reclusive author Gavin Featherstone, a favorite of her mother’s.
It's a lovely plan, but Ben’s arrival back in town with her parents quickly takes on peril, as someone runs her off the road close to home. While Molloy tackles finding who’s done this, and a hint of the “who” comes up, it looks like she may already know the miscreants: “I couldn’t meet [Molloy’s] eye. What if they were the same two arseholes that had been in my office this afternoon? Smalltown problems, I thought. Wouldn’t happen in a city.” Relieved to change topics, she assures Molloy that her parents are already settling happily into their visit.
Ben’s own role in all this is more than just impromptu tour guide for her parents: Her law practice had been purchased from an earlier practice, and when a death mars the literary festival, she unexpectedly discovers that her office safe shelters the relevant “last will and testament.” But it’s a bit out of date, considering all the action around her.
When her legal assistant notes that the will lists as executor the ex-wife of the deceased and asks whether that’s a problem, Ben’s got enough experience and focus to shrug:
“‘Maybe not. Let’s wait and see. It’s early days. The postmortem only happened yesterday so there may not even be a death certificate yet . . .’ I trailed off as it hit me that, surely, they’d have finished the postmortem by now, have a cause of death even if they didn’t have the toxicology results. Why hadn’t Molloy called me?”
It turns out Ben’s early optimism is misplaced. Not only is there a problem with the will she’s about to administer, but the literary festival itself seems to have sheltered quite a few secrets, including some belonging to her close friend Phyllis, the bookstore owner. And then there are the ones her parents refuse to discuss, although she and Molloy between them pick up enough threads of potential threat that they’re sneaking in some extra investigation. After all, she can’t let her mother and father be pinned by a con man, can she?
Like the earlier five books in Carter’s series, Death Writes is fast-paced and laden with surprise twists. It’s something of a relief that the romance segment of Ben’s life is settled, not contributing any added suspense—until, oh dear, it appears that Molloy, too, is keeping something from her.
Neatly blending the legal thriller, the rural police procedural, and rich Irish life into this novel is quite an achievement. Although there’s no need to read the earlier titles before this one, Carter’s closing indicates there are more of these strong and satisfying Inishowen mysteries ahead.