The year is 1905 and Powerscourt is sent to Ireland to investigate a series of art thefts from stately houses. Motive troubles Powerscourt; were these robberies merely for gain? A number of Old Masters had been left untouched and the ones taken were all ancient family portraits of the aristocratic Protestant gentry. Are these thefts political?Then, astonishingly, some of the portraits begin to return - but with altered faces; the aristocrats' being replaced by those from the estates and towns beyond the gates. Truly an elaborate joke, but then real people begin to disappear - and not long after the first body is found in the chapel at the top of Croagh Patrick, Ireland's Holy Mountain on the very day 10,000 people make the great pilgrimage to the summit.More follow, and as Powerscourt makes his way towards the killer his own life comes under threat, while his patriotism, and his devotion to Ireland is called into question on his journey towards the truth.
Dickinson's witty, highly literate seventh Lord Francis Powerscourt novel (after 2007's Death on the Nevskii Prospekt) provides a lively portrait of turn-of-the-last-century Ireland, where the English investigator and his wife, Lady Lucy, track down missing ancestral paintings of Anglo-Irish overlords, rescue kidnapped noblewomen from Irish nationalists and unmask murderers defiling the sacred Croagh Patrick pilgrimage. Large dollops of Ireland's long bloody struggle for independence counterpoint snatches of the country's famed song and poetry as Powerscourt thrashes out his inner dilemma against the labor pains of modern nationhood, torn between his aristocratic English heritage and the Ireland of his youth that he still loves deeply. Meanwhile, Ireland's religious and political leaders juggle fanaticism against practicality and Celtic voodoo against political expediency. Though Lady Lucy's role here is subordinated to Dickinson's evident relish in historical settings, architecture, art and poetry, this novel provides splendid entertainment and a wealth of insights into still-smoldering resentments and conflicts. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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April 01, 2009
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