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Death on The Holy Mountain
Lord Francis Powerscourt series #7

by David Dickinson

      Lord Francis Powerscourt visits Ireland for his seventh adventure, on the trail of some rather mysterious burglars.  Great houses belonging to the Protestant Ascendancy have been robbed of their paintings, but it is not the priceless old masters that have been taken - instead they seem to want sets of the owners’ ancestors.  Is there a market for them that most people don’t know about, or is there a more sinister reason?  It is up to the aristocratic sleuth to find out why before the bodies start piling up.

If you want to find out about The Troubles in 1905, then this book certainly gives you the uneasy atmosphere, as the old rule of the Ascendancy gives way to the sort of conflict we read about in the news still.  This also adds a topical feel to the tale, which manages to look back and forward as well as at its own time - no mean feat.  But if you want to read a gripping whodunit replete with all the things mystery readers relish then you might be advised to go elsewhere. 

There is a body, and all those purloined paintings but the real raison d’ętre of the work is surely to paint a compelling picture of the political climate of the time.  Mixed in with humorous episodes involving Irish workmen and donkeys building a chapel on top of the Holy Mountain are chunks of information about Parnell’s funeral, the Irish Potato Famine and W B Yeats.  Powersourt wanders around the various robbed houses eliciting information, a pair of illicit lovers conducts a romance and the differences between Protestants and Catholics are compared and contrasted.  It is rather like looking into a murky bowl of stew and trying to guess what is for dinner - there is a fair bit in here, but not perhaps delivered in the best way.  Unusual, and illuminating as regards the politics.

The Book

Constable (Constable and Robinson)
31 January 2008
Historical Crime 1905 / Ireland, various locations
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2008
© 2008