The last McGarr from Gill, who died this past summer, traces Ireland’s religious woes back to tussles between Christians and Druids, then moves forward to antagonism between Catholics and Protestants and the resentment of conservatives over the admission of so many students to Dublin’s Trinity College, whose library is the repository of the four-volume Book of Kells. When two of the illuminated manuscripts are stolen and a security guard killed, Peter McGarr, chief superintendent of the Garda Siochana’s Serious Crimes Unit, is upstaged by Chief Superintendent Jack Sheard, who gets himself appointed head of the investigation. Dodging Sheard and ubiquitous tabloid reporter Orla Bannon, McGarr and disgraced former Garda officers Ward and Bresnahan focus on Dr. Pape, Trinity’s head librarian, and his Oxycontin habit; Chazz Sweeney, stalwart of the archconservative sect Opus Dei; and a pair of father-and-son goons who may have taped the ransom demand of £50 million. Recent widower McGarr is attracted to rare-book archivist Kara Kennedy, but her past is shrouded in mystery—and, like Sheard, she may be setting up McGarr as scapegoat. Working through the raging religious controversies of warring sects, McGarr ignores his politically motivated dismissal from the case, zeroes in on the money trail, and survives a rocket launcher, a Glock or two, and greedy zealots to return the Book of Kells.
A superb exposition of Ireland’s religious development and a touching look into McGarr’s heart. The death of Gill (The Death of an Irish Sinner, 2001, etc.) deprives the mystery world of one of its most sensitive and talented practitioners.