An African-American violinist suddenly stranded in Ireland faces two daunting tasks: preparing the village school’s orchestra for a high-stakes competition they can’t possibly win and solving a pair of murders now celebrating their 25th anniversaries.
Dr. Gethsemane Brown gave it all up—her Dallas apartment, her furniture, her fiance—for a promised appointment as assistant conductor of the Cork Philharmonic. But when the job was given to the music director’s mistress, she settled for a teaching post in tiny Dunmullach, where everyone knows she’s an outsider and everyone knows that Eamon McCarthy, the gifted composer who lived in Carraigfaire Cottage with Orla, his poet wife, threw her off a cliff and took poison himself a generation ago. No sooner has Gethsemane arrived at the cottage, however, than the ghost of Eamon appears to assure her that he got a bad rap and beg her to reopen the case. Since her nominal job is to make her musical charges competitive in the All-County competition, a contest they haven’t won since Eamon died, Gethsemane, eager to curry favor with both a wealthy donor to the school and a high-profile musical judge visiting from Boston, suddenly has plenty on her plate. And that’s even before she begins to make the rounds of villagers as aggressively quaint as Sister Siobhan Moloney, the self-styled village psychic; Jimmy Lynch, the hostile witness who placed Eamon at the murder scene; and magician Nuala Sullivan, who claims to be in contact with Orla (and why not? acknowledges Gethsemane, who knows whereof she speaks).
Readers of Gordon’s charming debut can rest easy about the outcome of the All-County competition. But there’s more honest detection here than you’d expect, even if the murderer, whose career continues into the present, is a disappointingly marginal presence.