Death of an Irish Tinker

Death of an Irish Tinker

by Bartholomew Gill

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With each entry in this evocative series of Irish police procedurals, more readers become addicted to the adventures of Peter McGarr, the chief superintendent of Ireland's Special Crimes Unit. Now we see McGarr on his home turf—the streets of Dublin—battling his most dangerous enemy: Desmond Bacon, king of Ireland's heroin trade, known on the streets as


With each entry in this evocative series of Irish police procedurals, more readers become addicted to the adventures of Peter McGarr, the chief superintendent of Ireland's Special Crimes Unit. Now we see McGarr on his home turf—the streets of Dublin—battling his most dangerous enemy: Desmond Bacon, king of Ireland's heroin trade, known on the streets as "The Toddler."

A body is found shackled to the upper branches of the tallest tree in Ireland. The victim is a "Tinker, " one of the mysterious class of itinerant travelers who have roamed Ireland for generations. The murder bears all the signs of being the Toddler's work—but who was the victim, and why was he killed? The answer lies with a Tinker woman named Biddy Nevins. She's the only one who can put Desmond Bacon away—if McGarr can get to her before the Toddler does.

Full of Bartholomew Gill's wonderfully authentic observations of Irish culture, The Death of an Irish Tinker is a suspenseful thriller and gripping mystery.

Editorial Reviews
Bartholomew Gill's The Death of an Irish Tinker is billed as the latest in the series starring Dublin police detective Peter McGarr, but it's more about a woman named Biddy Nevins, who knows rather too much about a particularly grisly murder. A tinker -- one of Ireland's traditional nomads -- Biddy is on the run from "the Toddler," a Dublin drug dealer and killer, who is himself a longtime target of McGarr's. To find the Toddler, McGarr must find Biddy. But the novel is more than just a suspenseful chase as Gill explores the hidden world of the tinkers.

—Nancy Pate

Washington Post Book World
A police procedural that defies the limits of the genre...He writes with literary grace.
Dallas Morning News
The Peter McGarr detective series continues as heavily imbued with Irish wit and wonder as ever.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In a powerful novel of revenge, Gill's focus shifts away from the series hero, Dublin copper Peter McGarr, and his dogged Garda officers (last seen in Death of an Irish Sea Wolf, 1996). Instead, the narrative centers on the hunted: a tinker woman named Biddy Nevins, gifted street artist, a mother and a former heroin addict. Biddy witnesses a man being thrown under a Dublin bus by two goons in police uniforms who then go after her. She lives on the run for years, changing her name and making money in the art world, but not before her man, also a "traveler" and musician, is murdered in a particularly grisly manner as a reminder of her enemy's long reach. Biddy's foe is the hunter: Desmond Bacon, alias "the Toddler," Dublin's biggest drug dealer. He was trained to kill in Vietnam, has an army of addicts working for him and informative friends in high places. McGarr, drawn in by the murder of Biddy's man, doesn't so much detect here as officiate while Biddy goes after her nemesis. Gill lines up new lovers for Biddy, a business manager and her now teenage daughter, all of whom serve as targets for the Toddler. The tinkers' world is explored with respect and sympathy; the two main characters are multidimensional, expertly rendered creations; even the very long time frame doesn't dull the suspense, although the bloodbath at the ending may leave some issues only murkily resolved. Readers may be surprised to find Peter McGarr so little involved in the action, but there will be no complaints. This is a riveting, page-turning tale. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
When the chronology's all sorted out, it looks like this. First, Desmond Bacon, a.k.a. the Toddler, Ireland's premier druglord, stands by and watches as his Bookends, the Hyde brothers, shove Gavin O'Reilly under the wheels of a Dublin bus. (There's talk that Toddler's already plumped up his formidable murder tally by defenestrating traveling musician Paddy McDonagh, but no more of that.) The murder's witnessed by Biddy Nevins, the illiterate, artistically gifted Queen of the Buskers, who hies her family away from Toddler's goons, but not fast enough. Six months later, Eithne Carruthers returns from a vacation to find the skeleton of Mickalou Maugham, Biddy's King, naked and chained to the upper limbs of a soaring old tree on her estate. The next person to die is Toddler's driver Archie Carruthers, who made the arrangements for Mickalou's final resting place. Then the Bookends are killed: one, two, so. And when Chief Supt. Peter McGarr (The Death of an Irish Sea Wolf, 1996, etc.) leans on Cornelius Duggan, Toddler's bent solicitor, to roll over on his boss, Duggan vanishes like smoke. With so many loose ends neatly snipped off, how do you like Biddy Nevins's chances of survival when the tale fades back in after 12 miraculously uneventful years?

Considering the elevated body count, Toddler never does seem all that threatening. Maybe it's feisty Biddy, who arms herself more heavily than any clay pigeon; maybe it's the lilt in his language, which makes music of every fatality.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Peter McGarr Series, #14

Read an Excerpt

Des Bacon had been a bully up until his fifteenth birthday, when he returned to Gibraltar after his summer holidays and found that the wankers and wallies he'd been thumping—steadily, daily, just for the laugh of it—had grown.

Suddenly many were bigger, if not stronger, than he, and they rounded on him in a group, shoving him around a circle, punching his face, his ribs and stomach, spitting and even pissing on him when he fell and couldn't get up.

Finally, the biggest snatched him up by the neck and held him off the ground, like a stuffed doll, while the others took turns kicking him in the nuts. The yard master only looked away, later saying, "You had it coming, Paddy."

"Buck up, son!" his father had roared in his heavy Ulster burr when Desmond was released from the med bay with his neck in a cast. "I've a remedy for a runt like you. Them bastards are to know, because you've got to show 'em, that you're treble fierce.

"They truck with you again, you're to pay 'em back in blood. Not all of 'em, mind. Not even some. Just the one as an example, but make it good."

It was the only real advice his father ever gave him, but it was more than sufficient. It was an education in itself.

When in the buttery at school the one who had held him by the neck nicked his elevenses from his tray, Des Bacon did not hesitate. Taking three forks from the utensil bin, he went straight to the machine shop, where he sharpened the tines on a speed grinder. Back at the mess table, he tapped the oaf on a shoulder. "Good scoff?"

"The best. Know what makes it special, Paddy?"

Desmond waited.

"'Twas yours."

The others laughed.

"In fact, it weren't enough. I'm hungry still. Get meanother, double chips."

Suddenly everybody was quiet, eyes darting at each other, gleeful. They were together; Des was alone.

"But me money—I'll have none for meself." The Irishisms were on purpose to separate himself further, to make himself into the wild, unpredictable, and dangerous loner. "What'll I do for me prog?"

The boy shook his head and tsked. "You know what they say in Ireland, Paddy: Do for yourself or do wi'out."

It was then that young Desmond Bacon realized what a rush revenge was. The forks he was grasping in a fist behind his back were power, what would put him in control again. And control was everything.

Copyright © 1997 by Mark McGarrity.

Meet the Author

Bartholomew Gill authored 15 Peter McGarr mysteries, among them The Death of an Irish Lover, The Death of an Irish Tinker, and the Edgar Award nominee The Death of a Joyce Scholar. A graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, Gill wrote as Mark McGarrity for the Star-Ledger. He died in 2002.

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