Customer Reviews of Happy Are the Peace Makers
Bishops, Bombs, and Bailey's Irish Cream
Tim McCarthy was a decorated Chicago cop, but in his free evenings he studied law, sociology, and English literature, among other things. Burdened with all those term papers he never had time to take a wife, and now, well into his 40's, he is a credit-rich but lonely man who in his retirement takes on eccentric and challenging investigation work for equally eccentric employers. It is in this capacity that he crosses the pond to Ireland to investigate Nora MacDonaugh.
Nora is either very wicked or very unlucky. She is also very rich. The Dublin Police Department believes she slept her way to the money, its curiosity more than roused by the untimely deaths of both of her husbands, the latter blown to bits in his study. Innocent or guilty, she is extremely smart, and with modest effort this attractive widow becomes emotionally invested in the lovelorn McCarthy.
By happy coincidence the good Bishop John Ryan is vacationing in the safety of his hip nieces on the Emerald Isle. How to describe his role in this caper? Well, he is there, offering an occasional witticism, restaurant review, or forensic jab. He has a "call me if you need me" role to play in this novel. One gets the sense that he knows how this drama will play out from the get-go but that he does not want to ruin McCarthy's fun, so to speak.
There are enough mysteries here to please almost anyone. Will Tim McCarthy lose his objectivity to the charms of the luscious Nora? Will they actually "do it?" Is Nora stringing him along to divert him from the terrible truth? Does she deserve the Dublin Police moniker, "Miss Yo-Yo Pants?" [So help me.] How do two very unhappy families, an Irish terrorist, a Dublin pol, and an upstart Irish cream company play into the picture? And does Bishop Ryan eventually get a bigger role in the story than Zorro's mute compadre, Paco?
It's not MacBeth, but it's a pleasant enough read, with or without the Bailey's.
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.