Tuesday 24 April 2018

First, find a grisly corpse - only then are secrets and lies unearthed

Crime

Brothers and Sisters

Adele O'Neill

Head of Zeus, €10.99

Brothers and Sisters
Brothers and Sisters

Margaret Carragher

Spanning almost half a century, Adele O'Neill's debut novel opens with the discovery of human remains in a boundary ditch of the Fitzpatrick Estate, an extensive farm in Co Kilkenny.

When pathology reveals that the corpse, preserved in boggy soil, met with a grisly end and could have been there since 1970, Detectives Louise Kennedy and Tony Kelly set about investigating the history of the Fitzpatrick family who owned the farm for generations before selling it - for a fraction of its market value - to the sitting tenants Michael and Marie McGrath who now live there with their young family.

From here the narrative rewinds to the Fitzpatrick Estate, circa 1970, where Rose and Timothy Fitzpatrick live with their parents Liam and Maeve in the imposing farmhouse, while their uncle Pat Fitzpatrick resides in an estate cottage nearby.

Resentful and put upon, 14-year-old Rose is charged with the task of running the farmhouse while her gin-soaked mother directs operations from the mahogany-panelled drawing room she rarely leaves.

Meanwhile, her beloved brother Timothy is expected to do much of the donkey work on the farm while their bullying father lives it up in the local pub. Then there's Pat, the lecherous uncle who expects his dinner to be delivered daily from the big house.

So - it's a Monday evening in March 1970 at the height of the lambing season, and Rose's brother Timothy has been taken out of school by his father and sent to a caravan in the lambing field where he is ordered to remain until all the lambs are born.

Meanwhile, Rose's father is, as usual, in the pub and her mother in a drunken stupor when Rose makes her way to her uncle's cottage with a foil-wrapped dinner plate.

Then Pat Fitzpatrick disappears, and nothing more is heard of him until his corpse, still bearing the marks of a violent end, is dug out of a ditch 46 years later. Back then to the present where, in a Kilkenny cemetery Detective Kennedy watches as the mortal remains of the late and unlamented Pat Fitzpatrick are finally laid to rest.

Confounded, not just by the murder but also by her inexplicably tender feelings towards her colleague Tony Kelly, Detective Kennedy wonders if either situation will ever be satisfactorily resolved.

In a riveting first novel O'Neill paves the way for what one hopes will be an equally compelling sequel.

Sunday Independent

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