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Great Irish Detective Stories

Edited by: Peter Haining

This is a vivid and comprehensive anthology of Irish detective writing. It shows the great impact Ireland has had and has on the Detective Story.

It is almost 2 centuries since Irishman Gerald Griffin wrote the first detective story. It was in Ireland’s west coast in the area of Connemara. The detective story that follows is in this same area.

In 1827, Gerald Griffin wrote “The Hand and the Word.” This was 14 years before Irish American Poe wrote “Murder in the Rue Morgue” which is often said to be the first detective story. “The Hand and the Word” is included in the anthology. It is marked by careful observation of character, detailed descriptions of physical surroundings, and great drama.

It “is a classic tale of crime about a beautiful girl, her faithful lover, who has been away for five years in the army, and the black-hearted criminal determined to ruin their happiness. The criminal pushes the man off a cliff. The story is as dramatic as anything to be found in present-day detective writing.”

It ends with the court scene, in which the people of the area come to the courthouse “to determine” the cause of death of the young man who has been away for years. Each in turn lays a hand on the corpse…in order to prove their innocence.

“The murderer is revealed in the courtroom by a sharp-eyed witness who spots a vital clue clutched in the dead man’s hand.” She pries it from the dead man’s hand and that it is a piece of the collar and button torn off the murderer when the dead man tried to defend himself. The killer is wearing the jacket with the missing part of the collar. He runs from the courtroom. The people chase him. He runs to the ocean cliff near where he had pushed the young man to his death. And as the people close in, he jumps to his own death. Justice is dramatically served!

This wonderful anthology includes many Irish detective stories. William Trevor’s “Events at Drimaghleen” is included. Trevor is a novelist and short story writer and is “widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.”

The editor says of Trevor, “Few present-day Irish writers are more steeped in the lore of the detective story than William Trevor. His first recollection of being introduced to reading via the pages of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians.” The experience was to have a profound influence on his interest in crime and detection.

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