BORDERLANDS – Brian McGilloway

“Saturday, 21st December 2002

It was not beyond reason that Angela Cashell’s  final resting place should straddle the border.  Presumably, neither those who dumped her corpse, nor, indeed, those who had created the border between the North and South of Ireland in 1920, could understand the vagaries that meant that her body lay half in one country and half in another,  in an area known as the borderlands.”

Angela is the fifteen year-old daughter of Johnny Cashell, a man well-known on both sides of the border, a thief, a trouble-maker, and a pair of fists for anyone willing to pay the price.  It is a few days before Christmas and no man deserves to be told his child has been murdered and left, nearly naked, in a cold, barren no-man’s land.

Angela is wearing an unusual and expensive ring engraved with her initials.  No one in her family recognizes it; her sisters say Angela didn’t wear gold.  Near the location of the body is the picture of a woman that no one in the family recognizes either.  Angela has not been molested and some dignity has been left to her by whoever placed her in the field since it it obvious that she was killed somewhere else.   The police have nothing that gives them a place to start.

Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin becomes the lead investigator in the case because Angela was a citizen of the Republic of Ireland.  As the police investigate, they learn that in the days before her body was found, Angela had spent time with Yvonne Coyle, a nurse, at a club in Strabane in the north but Yvonne claims she knows nothing about Angela’s friends.  And she knows nothing about the ring.

Three days later, the body of Terry Boyle is found in Gallow’s Lane, burned beyond recognition.  Terry had returned from the university for Christmas and had gone out to meet friends.  He had never been in trouble, there is no connection to Angela Cashell, and yet, there is another murdered teenager and no motive for the death.  And the same picture found near Angela’s body is found near his.

Devlin is convinced that the ring is important and with the help of a jeweler, Devlin learns that the initials AC don’t refer to the woman receiving the ring but to the man who ordered it.  When the police learn that the woman in the picture was a prostitute who disappeared many years ago, the case begins to move quickly and the situation becomes more desperate.

BORDERLANDS  is a story of old hates, of revenge, lives set adrift, and of lives too short and sadly-ended.  McGilloway writes of the geographic no-man’s land  where nothing flourishes or grows because it claims no one and no one can claim it as home or as refuge.  It is the stuff of tragedy when a soul becomes a borderland of its own.

BORDERLANDS  is the first book in the Benedict Devlin series.

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10 Responses to BORDERLANDS – Brian McGilloway

  1. janebbooks says:

    Beth, what a great review of the first Bendict Devlin series! You captured so much ethos and pathos with your words.
    I believe this is a new or revised review of BORDERLANDS, isn’t it? I recall an earlier review on the Insomniac II thread. I read the first two of McGilloway’s series after reading your reviews, but I’m having a time finding the third one and the fourth one. No US publishers.
    (And then, too, BORDERLANDS was mistakenly listed as a “Western” in the Jacksonville public library system.)
    What a shame. Devlin not only is a kind and gentle detective but a thorough and understanding one.


  2. Beth says:

    Jane, I have been re-reading many of the books about which I posted on other discussions, especially if there are subsequent books in the series. It is interesting to discover how much a character has or hasn’t changed as the books progress.

    The borderlands between the northern and southern divisions of Ireland are so much more than a physical division. It was Michael Collins’ agreement that the country be partitioned ,keeping the six counties with a Protestant majority as part of Great Britain, that led to his assassination. That is blood-soaked land, literally and figuratively but Mr. McGilloway presents it for modern times as a place where the north and south can work together.

  3. KK Brees says:

    The Irish part of me is always seeking out mysteries set in the auld sod. In this case, that appears to be the literal truth. Thanks for the post!

  4. Beth says:

    KK Brees, have you read Declan Hughes? Ed Loy is a very modern PI in a modern Dublin. Tana French is one of the best as well.

  5. kathy d. says:

    I have not read Declan Hughes, but I have read Tana French’s first two books and loved them, and the Irish part of me appreciated the bits of Irish history French gently put into “The Likeness.”
    Feelings still run very high whether one lives in the north of Ireland or in the southern 26 counties, or if one comes from either area. And, books do reflect the writers’ own opinions, too, about Irish history, which is not only history, but is present, too.
    By the way, I read and enjoyed your post at Murder is Everywhere about how you talked and read to your children and nurtured their love of words and books, starting at a very early stage. Great post. You should write a book or an article about this and get it out to other parents.

    • Beth says:

      Kathy – Not surprisingly, the Irish Republic has moved away from re-fighting the wars the stem from the Battle of the Boyne. The Orange Order in the north still fears being absorbed into the country to the south with its predominately Catholic population. A few years ago, at the height of the success of the Celtic Tiger, political leaders in the north began moving away from concentrating on politics and toward building a modern economy.

  6. kathy d. says:

    My great-grandparents, whom I unfortunately never knew, were from Ireland. I know my great-grandmother was from County Sligo, I don’t know where her spouse was from. I do know that one of them, probably her, was Catholic and her spouse, Protestant. I heard that every day for 50 years, they argued that “the Catholics were going to hell,” or “the Protestants were going to hell.” Yet, when one died, the other was deeply depressed. My parent was puzzled by this. I’m not.
    Feelings about all this still run deep. I think now the economic crisis is affecting so many that people are focused on this.

    • Beth says:

      Kathy, what you heard about your great-grandparents is likely true and likely not to have anything to do with political persuasion. Years ago, there was an Irish folk group that had a song called “The Orange and the Green.” The chorus was, “It is the biggest mix-up you have ever seen, me father he was orange and me mother she was green.” The Orange order is the Protestant group in the north; the green is self-explanatory. Both groups were against mixed marriages, Protestant and Catholic, because each side feared the children would be brought up in the faith of the other. I don’t know why your parents were confused about their commitment to each other. If they didn’t have their daily argument, each would have thought the other suffering from some malaise. The Irish will argue about anything all the time. It is the stuff of conversation. I have heard my mother and her brothers arguing despite the fact that they were all saying the same thing. If the Irish can say it in 100 words, who would be strange enough to only use 50? The identity of the people in the north is tied to Protestantism and the union with Great Britain. The people in the Republic took a giant step into the modern world in the 90’s and. like most other countries who took that step, Ireland has become increasing secular. Catholicism no longer has the hold on the country that it did. The republic is a market economy; no one cares very much about religion there as they don’t care much about it in the US.

  7. kathy d. says:

    I know the history of Ireland for independence quite well. Even went to events 30 years ago on this issue and sang for freedom in Irish pubs–in the days I could hang out in pubs after midnight, many moons ago, when Irish musicians would appear, having just arrived.
    Actually, and I blogged about this at another blog, my Irish side of the family was calm, and witty. When they got together, they smoked, drank, told stories and jokes. No one argued. (I’ve been told this is very unusual). They didn’t discuss deep substantive issues or emotions. (My Eastern European Jewish side of the family was 180 degrees apart; then one had to sidestep small grenades thrown at family gatherings, with arguments, decades-old grudges, etc.) But the Irish relatives all got along, no one criticized anyone else, not in public anyway. (They had family skeletons, but no one discussed them.) They were kind to the Jewish side of my family, except for one in-law who never came out of his room when we visited.
    It’s all complicated.

  8. Pingback: AUTHORS I – M | MURDER by TYPE

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