Andrew Greeley has enjoyed considerable success as the writer of the Bishop Blackie Ryan novels. Until now I had not read any of these tales. Amazon lists "Happy Are The Peacemakers" as the first novel in the series and so there I decided to make my start. It was only later that I found a bibliography that actually lists it as his sixth novel. While starting in the middle of a series is often difficult, it was not the case here. I was a bit surprised by the novel, however, on several counts. While not unpleasant, it was not quite what I expected.
" Happy Are The Peacemakers" is set just before Bloomsday in Dublin. Bloomsday, for the non-cognoscenti, is the annual celebration of James Joyce's novels. Tim Pat McCarthy, retired Chicago cop and private investigator, has been hired to look into the murder of billionaire entrepreneur Jim Lark MacDonaugh. More precisely he has been hired to prove that MacDonaugh's young wife Nora was guilty of his murder in order to lay her hands on his wealth.
Naturally, the ethical McCarthy intends to find the truth, not injure the innocent. Especially since he has fallen under the spell of the beautiful Nora. In the background, like a deus ex machina, is Bishop Ryan, also from Chicago, and convinced of Nora's innocence. If Nora is innocent, then who really did blow her husband to smithereens in a locked room? Jim Lake's brothers? His children? His business partners? The IRA? The list of suspects is nearly infinite, and the murderer seems quite willing to kill again to protect his secrets.
Greeley tells this story with a light, almost comic, touch. Once can't help but smile at the antics of the MacDonaugh clan, the budding romance between Tim Pat and Nora, and the countless bit players that appear. Greeley seems to tell most of the tale with a heavy Irish brogue. The ins and outs of that dialect are a fascinating study all on their own
I have only two real issues with the novel. One is that all of Greeley's Irishfolk curse a blue streak. Except for Blackie Ryan, of course. There comes a point where all the expletives become overused, and one wishes that Greeley had been a bit more circumspect. The other issue is that Bishop Ryan makes very few lengthy appearances in this tale. Most of the time he receives McCarthy's reports with a curt "fascinating." It is only at the end that he displays an almost Nero Wolfe-like brilliance. I like my detectives to be a bit more prominent. In any case this is a likeable story that will serve to provide several entertaining hours. Those of a literary bent will find the countless allusions to James Joyce a source of much amusement. And the romantics among us will delight in the eccentric relationship between McCarthy and Nora.