Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review: Death in Saint-Chartier by Ivo Fornesa

Synopsis: Seeking a quiet spot to write his memoirs, Laurent de Rodergues secludes himself in Saint-Chartier, a village in the heart of France. Yet his tranquil life is soon disturbed by Carlos, an eccentric millionaire determined to give the town's medieval chateau a costly and controversial makeover. When the chateau is unveiled after months of anticipation, the whole town turns out to gaze in wonder - only to find their host lying dead in a pool of blood. 

Laurent suspects foul play, and when the gendarmes find nothing, he makes it his mission to unmask the murderer. But where to begin? From jilted lovers to jealous rivals, disgruntled employees to shadowy associates practically everyone had a reason to want Carlos dead. As Laurent quickly learns, beneath its idyllic facade, the town of Saint-Chartier is rife with resentment and secret passions.

Laurent de Rodrigues returns to the village of his youth looking for peace and quite. Laurent plans on writing his memoirs, however procrastination and writers' block see the budding author exploring his local village. Dominating the small village is the Chateau de Saint-Chartier. And here elements of real-life intrude into our fictional story.

From 1974 to 2008, the castle had hosted the festival of Saint-Chartier, called the International Meeting of Luthiers and Master-Ringers. This festival, hosted in the park of the castle as well as in the whole village, featured concerts, balls and various activities. It took place every year for 4 days around Bastille Day. 

Following the change of ownership, the festival moved to the Castle of Ars and the restoration of the Chateau began in 2009, a fire in the mid 19th century destroyed part of it. Much of the reconstruction work in the novel is based upon these past works. 

The village of Saint-Chartier itself is quite isolated, the nearest railway station is indeed that of Chateauroux, some 30km away, and its population managed to barely creep above 500 in 2016. The are is noted for both milk production and the production of cheese.

As Laurent settles back into village life, we meet not only the locals, but the one man who has raised a number of hackles - millionaire Carlos Shennan. Carlos himself is a rather shady character whose background and business dealings raise more questions than are answered. His renovations have caused a bit of a stir in the village - though Laurent himself views both these and Carlos as rather refreshing. In a show of communal conviviality, Carlos opens the doors to the recently renovated Chateau and treats the locals to wine, music, and a feast.

When the death of the current own of the Chateau, Carlos Shennan is ruled as suicide, this leaves a bad taste in the mouth of our amateur detective. Laurent de Rodrigues, who, though still regarded as somewhat of a newcomer, decides that there is more to this death and begins his own investigation some many months later. "... nothing gives you a new perspective on things like a bit of distance .."

As Laurent investigates, there is more to each of his list of suspects than meets the eye; and as he reaches his conclusions, self-doubt enters. The final build up to the denouement is palpable - and we are left with a perplexing solution (no spoiler alert here).

The chapters are short yet richly detailed. I really enjoyed this mystery which loses nothing in the translation (originally published in Spanish). I loved how the author's own life is as every bit exciting as the one he has given his protagonist, and the added authenticity of real location and events makes it all the more intriguing. I am looking forward to more from this author.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Making Sense of the Molly Maguires by Kevin Kenny

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Making Sense of the Molly Maguires

Twenty Irish immigrants, suspected of comprising a secret terrorist organization called the Molly Maguires, were executed in Pennsylvania in the 1870s for the murder of sixteen men. Ever since, there has been enormous disagreement over who the Molly Maguires were, what they did, and why they did it, as virtually everything we now know about the Molly Maguires is based on hostile descriptions of their contemporaries.

Arguing that such sources are inadequate to serve as the basis for a factual narrative, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires examines the ideology behind contemporary evidence to explain how and why a particular meaning came to be associated with the Molly Maguires in Ireland and Pennsylvania. At the same time, this work examines new archival evidence from Ireland that establishes that the American Molly Maguires were a rare transatlantic strand of the violent protest endemic in the Irish countryside.

Combining social and cultural history, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires offers a new explanation of who the Molly Maguires were, as well as why people wrote and believed such curious things about them. In the process, it vividly retells one of the classic stories of American labour and immigration.

Moderate Radical by Rosamund Oates

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Moderate Radical

Moderate Radical explores an exciting period of English, and British, history: Elizabethan and Early Stuart religious politics. Tobie Matthew (c. 1544-1628) started Elizabeth's reign as a religious radical, yet ended up running the English Church during the tumultuous years leading up to the British Civil Wars. Moderate Radical provides a new perspective on this period, and an insight into the power of conforming puritanism as a political and cultural force. Matthew's vision of conformity and godly magistracy brought many puritans into the Church, but also furnished them with a justification for rebellion when the puritanism was seriously threatened. Through exciting new sources - Matthew's annotations of his extensive library and newly discovered sermons - Rosamund Oates explores the guiding principles of puritanism in the period and explains why the godly promoted the national church, even when it seemed corrupt. She demonstrates how Matthew protected puritans, but his protection meant that there was a rich seam of dissent at the heart of the Church that emerged when the godly found themselves under attack in the 1620s and 1630s.

This is a story about accommodations, conformity and government, as well as a biography of a leading figure in the Church, who struggled to come to terms with his own son's Catholicism and the disappointments of his family. Moderate Radical makes an important contribution to the emerging field of sermon studies, exploring the rich cultures derived from sermons as well as re-creating some of the drama of Matthew's preaching. It offers a new insight into tensions of the pre-Civil War Church.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Bryan Dobson to launch new book on the history of Leitrim

Bryan Dobson to launch new book on the history of Leitrim
From Leitrim Observer
A wonderful new book on the history of Leitrim will be launched by Bryan Dobson, of the Dobson family, Mohill and of course one of RTE’s best known and most popular broadcasters on Friday, December 6 at 6.30pm, in Áras an Chontae, the County Council Offices in Carrick-on-Shannon.

The book is the first such book on the history of Leitrim. It contains thirty-five chapters covering much of the hidden history of Leitrim from the earliest times right up to this decade. The book is edited by local editors, Monsignor Liam Kelly and historian Dr Brendan Scott who lives in Ballinaglera.

The Book called, ‘Leitrim: History and Society’, is the most recent county history of twenty-seven county histories published over the years since 1985, which started with Tipperary. This wonderful project of county histories is the brainchild of the general editor of the series, Professor William Nolan of UCD.

read more here @ Leitrim Observer