HOW TO MURDER A MAN by Carlo Gébler


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A historical thriller, courtesy of Irish novelist GÇbler (W9 & Other Lives, 1998, etc.), on the travails of a 19th-century land agent who runs afoul of a gang of Irish terrorists. The landlord’s lot may be a fairly easy one, but no one in his right mind would envy the rent collector. The hero of our tale is one Thomas French, appointed agent of the Beaton estate in County Monaghan in 1854. The Beatons are absentee landlords, Anglo-Irish Protestants who hardly ever leave Dublin and haven—t lived on the estate for generations. They have good cause: A secret society called the Ribbonmen has been repaying evictions with assassinations ever since the Beatons received the estate in the 17th century. The Ribbonmen inspire such fear that almost no rents have been collected on the estate for years, and the previous agent gave up even trying to put things in order. But French has some ideas. He decides to clear the air by forgiving tenants— arrears if they agree to accept passage to America and emigrate, thereby making room for more agreeable newcomers. The Ribbonmen don—t like this offer, however, suspecting that it’s a means of clearing the area of Catholics and solidifying British control. One of the gang’s ringleaders, Isaac Marron, convinces his cohorts to issue a —death warrant— for the agent, and in accordance with custom French is sent an anonymous warning. This also proves to be a mistake: French becomes all the more determined to carry out his plan now that he’s facing an outright rebellion. With his faithful assistant Micky Laffin—and no one else—at his side as he faces the outlaws, French acts more like a Colorado sheriff than a Monaghan estate agent, though perhaps that was the author’s intent. Formulaic and uninspired but, still, with enough atmosphere to satisfy Celtophiles of all stripes—provided they like westerns.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-7145-3058-1
Page count: 373pp
Publisher: Marion Boyars
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1999


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