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Book Brief: New books by James Lee Burke and Sam Blake plus a history of Bagatelle

Reviews of A Private Cathedral, The Dark Room, That Summer in Dublin!, Camino Winds and Invisible Girl

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A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke

A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke

A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke

Thriller: A Private Cathedral by James Lee Burke Orion, 384 pages, paperback €11.40; e-book £5.99

In this 23rd adventure featuring detective Dave Robicheaux, James Lee Burke delves into the New Iberia, Louisiana policeman’s past and involves him in a murderous feud between two of the most vicious gangs in the state.

The merciless Shondell and Balangie families have been bitter rivals in New Iberia’s underworld for generations, but now, in an uprooted and updated Romeo and Juliet-like scenario, Isolde Balangie and Johnny Shondell have eloped. Dave, with the help of his erratic friend Clete Purcell, a disgraced former policeman, must find them. But when Robicheaux, himself out of favour with his colleagues in the New Iberia police department, some of whom may be compromised by their contacts with the gangs, becomes entangled with Isolde’s beautiful mother and her father’s equally attractive mistress, the father, jealous on both counts, imports a very strange killer to hunt down and dispose of both Robicheaux and Purcell.

The hitman, Gideon Richetti, seems to have been disposing of people violently since the Spanish Inquisition and over the course of his pursuit of Dave and Clete morphs from possessing a snake-like head and no nose to a more human aspect.

What’s more, he appears to have second thoughts about his mission when it emerges that at the core of the dispute between the families is the sex-trafficking of underage girls. The violent denouement is Shakespearian in the number of bodies littering the battlefield, and in the fact that both Dave Robicheaux and Clete Purcell manage to confront their personal demons — raging alcoholism in Dave’s case and a dangerous addiction to violence on Clete’s part.

Readers new to James Lee Burke may find the supernatural tropes somewhat puzzling.

Myles McWeeney

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The Dark Room by Sam Blake

The Dark Room by Sam Blake

The Dark Room by Sam Blake

Thriller: The Dark Room by Sam Blake
Corvus, 304 pages, paperback €12.99; e-book £2.84

London-based film location scout Rachel Lambert and New York crime reporter Caroline Kelly, originally from Wicklow, find themselves in a remote West Cork boutique hotel called Hare’s Landing. Rachel is seeking to discover the connection between a dead homeless vagrant in London and the hotel, while Caroline is facing a lawsuit that threatens her future. The young women instantly bond and discover that Hare’s Landing is home to a 30-year-old mysterious tragedy, repercussions from which suddenly surface and come crashing back into the present due to Rachel’s inquiries, which bring the threat of violence . An excellent, engrossing tale with a satisfyingly serpentine plot with a killer twist.

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Myles McWeeney

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That Summer in Dublin! by Brian Kennedy

That Summer in Dublin! by Brian Kennedy

That Summer in Dublin! by Brian Kennedy

Music: That Summer in Dublin! by Brian Kennedy
Zesty Thorndyke, 212 pages, paperback €19.99; e-book £8.99

This is a timely celebration of Bagatelle and their lead singer Liam Reilly — the man who wrote their hit Summer in Dublin — who died last week aged 65. As well as charting the band’s domestic success, Brian Kennedy offers a nostalgic glimpse of the exciting Irish music scene in the late 70s and 80s, when the Dundalk/Bray combo were rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Boomtown Rats, picking up gold and platinum discs, influencing a young U2 and providing a soundtrack to the lives of many young music fans. Kennedy interviewed the band, their fans and managers and pored through the newspaper archives for this book that is brought life with hundreds of photos.

Gareth Murray

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Camino Winds by John Grisham

Camino Winds by John Grisham

Camino Winds by John Grisham

Thriller: Camino Winds by John Grisham
Hodder, 304 pages, paperback €12.60; e-book £4.99

The blockbuster US author and ex-lawyer made his fortune penning legal thrillers but he has been on a diversion in recent years. Camino Island offered a whole new locale — a wealthy fictional enclave in Florida — and now this follow-up book finds Grisham returning to the same place. The winds in the title refers to hurricane season and, as a storm hits, one of the central characters turns up dead. The victim is an author planning a tell-all book about corporate wrong-doing in the area. There are plenty of suspects and a slew of memorable characters, including the larger-than-life Bruce, who’s owner of the local bookshop and at the centre of much of the action.

John Meagher

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Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Thriller: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
Arrow, 432 pages, paperback €9.99; e-book £4.99

The English thriller writer’s latest centres on the interwoven lives of troubled people. There’e 17-year-old Saffyre, who experienced great trauma in her childhood. She is fixated with her former therapist, Roan, who lives nearby. He has his own concerns, mostly about his marriage. Then, there’s Owen, a lonely single man in his 30s who lives with his aunt and who is suspended from his job over sexual misconduct charges. Jewell is something of a star of twist-laden mystery stories and, here, she’s in page-turner mode, especially from the point when Saffyre goes missing. And with a spate of sex-attacks in the area, Owen soon finds himself under suspicion…

John Meagher


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