Characters from James Joyce’s Ulysses enjoy new life—except for the unfortunate soul who suffers a bloody death.
When DI Jim Kinsella of the Dublin Metropolitan Police arrives at 7 Eccles St., he thinks he’s been called to an ordinary case of domestic violence. But the man who ran out on the street and wailed, “She’s gone,” is Leopold Bloom, whose wife, Molly, was a popular singer. Now she’s a corpse lying half-on, half-off the conjugal bed, with her face slashed and one eyeball hanging. The murder weapon appears to be a teapot, and the obvious suspect is her husband. A hostile judge angered at the loss to Dublin’s music scene and a coroner who oversteps his bounds by arresting Bloom lead to an inquest that brings to light the unsavory truth about the Blooms’ marriage. When Milly, their young daughter, arrives from a country town for the funeral and the inquest, she’s taken under the wing of Hugh “Blazes” Boylan, Molly’s manager and, as it turns out, lover. Milly, who adores her father, can’t understand why he’s so unhelpful in his own defense, despite the efforts of a junior partner in a prestigious law firm to prove his innocence. As Bloom’s own extramarital activities become public, and his possible motives for murdering his wife seem ever more obvious, Kinsella can’t help thinking that Bloom’s trying to protect someone—and not just Milly.
Whatever Joyce scholars may think of one of the world’s most ambitious novels being spun off into a whodunit, Stirling’s (The Marrying Kind, 1996, etc.) clever, bawdy mystery-cum–court case stands up well in its own right. Picking up the pace would have made it even better.