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The Dublin Horse Show is one of the city's proudest traditions — a grand institution tarnished this year by the murder of elderly Margaret Caughey. Chief Inspector Peter McGarr is puzzled by the strange death of a seemingly harmless old woman whose apartment contains not a trace of her past life — and by the heinous crime's apparent links to the upcoming equestrian event. Nearly everyone associated with the unfortunate victim has connections to the Horse show as well, from dowdy Margaret's racetrack gadfly ...
The Dublin Horse Show is one of the city's proudest traditions — a grand institution tarnished this year by the murder of elderly Margaret Caughey. Chief Inspector Peter McGarr is puzzled by the strange death of a seemingly harmless old woman whose apartment contains not a trace of her past life — and by the heinous crime's apparent links to the upcoming equestrian event. Nearly everyone associated with the unfortunate victim has connections to the Horse show as well, from dowdy Margaret's racetrack gadfly brother, to her surprisingly elegant daughter who's scheduled to compete . . . to an ex-IRA contract killer. And with race day rapidly approaching, McGarr knows he must work quickly to untangle this knotted skein of deadly secrets. For if he falters, the tireless detective fears that more blood may be spilt — perhaps even his own — before the riders leave the gate.
McGarr eased open a casement window at the back of a house in Ballsbridge, a select area south of Dublin.
The gloaming of a long summer evening had cast a pall, funereal and still, over the neat rows of flowers, the clipped shrubs, and the spiked iron fences that formed an alley in the distance.
Below him he could hear two women talking.
" ... and it's little wonder the police have arrived -- her letting the daughter go around all tarted up who knows where with who knows who. And the string of them. A week, ten days -- some of them take her out only once." There was a significant pause. "And what she must spend. Just one of those see-through blouses -- why, twenty pounds easily. And how old would you say she is?"
"The old one, the mother. Of course, the mother. If she's the mother. But the other one too, the daughter. She can't be more than ... fifteen or sixteen, if she's that."
"Is that a fact?"
"It is, missus. It is."
"How they manage it! And the car over in the garage, the -- what is it again?"
"A Daimler, I think."
"A Daimler, no less. Think of it -- never touched. Not once to my knowledge."
"I don't think she drives."
"Then why the car? And why the clothes and the deliveries and the way Finlay's is always running upstairs with baskets, baskets of groceries. Specialty items all, I can assure you. Nothing but the best." There was quiet for a while. "I ask youwhere it must come from?"
"I'm sure I wouldn't know."
"Then I'll tell you, missus -- from no good, that's where. And how they manage it -- her an old ... " McGarr couldn't catch what was then said and, nudging up the brim of his panama, he stepped closer to the window.
McGarr was a short man. His long face and clear gray eyes made it seem as though nothing could surprise him. In his late forties now, his light red hair was balding and he had taken to wearing hats. But the woman's voice soon resumed the firm, indignant tone. "And it's not the first time today that the police have arrived, I'm led to believe."
"Really now, missus?" The second woman was older, but her hair was tinted and permed and her figure not spoiled from childbearing, like that of the first woman, whose children McGarr could hear playing in the house. Pastel colors from a television spilled through sliding glass doors and speckled the flagstones of the patio, muting as the picture changed.
In all -- McGarr thought, as he strained to hear what was about to be revealed, doubtless in a low voice -- a pleasant and an unusual setting for a murder.
"No, missus -- " the younger woman said, " -- I've been told a policeman was here in the afternoon as well."
Yet another pause, while the other woman reflected. This was news to McGarr, since the condition of the body suggested that death had occurred during the afternoon, although he couldn't be sure as yet.
"I have it on the very best of advice."
"Did you get a look at him?" It was McGarr's question exactly.
"No, no -- not me myself, mind you." She glanced up at the windows. "But I've been assured he was a policeman. I mean, who else could it have been, seeing they're here again and all?"
McGarr tried to ease the window shut, but the hinges squeaked and both women looked up.
Another voice came to him as he passed through the darkened kitchen and hall toward the sitting room.
"Through this holy unction, and of His most tender mercy, may the Lord pardon thee whatsoever sins thou hast committed by sight." The priest was down on one knee, dipping his thumb in holy oils and making the form of the cross over each eye of the old woman, who was slumped in the chair.
The daughter had found her there, and, thinking her asleep, had gone into another room to change into evening clothes while her escort had waited below in the car. There had been, she had intimated, some animosity between the young man and the mother, and he had rarely entered the house. Only when she had been leaving and had tried to wake the mother had she realized something was wrong.
Having no phone in the apartment, she had sent her boyfriend for help, and the ambulance attendants had called the police. The woman had been strangled in front of the chair and then eased or allowed to fall back into it. McGarr had examined the nap of the rug. He had found swirls near where her feet had come to rest.
There was nothing missing from the house, or so the daughter thought.
"Through this holy unction, and of His most tender mercy, may the Lord pardon thee whatsoever sins thou has committed by thy footsteps.
"Amen." The priest stood and, crossing himself, moved away.
McGarr bent his head and touched a hand to his brow. He was not a religious man, or at least not formally so, but death demanded some obeisance, and McGarr was willing to go along with what people of all religions deemed meet.
What he now noticed was the chair itself. It was an old Morris copy and out of place in the chic apartment. The arms were worn from years of use, and the ring on her right hand had most probably carved the groove in the arm on that side. As well, the upholstery of the cushions -- some garish floral pattern that was now faded -- was worn beneath a lace doily. Her head, canted at an odd angle to the side ...The Death of an Irish Tradition
Posted February 11, 2011
typical fine writing, with wonderful details of contemporary irish life, layered fairly subtle characterization, and twisty plot, but...for me, the plot gets somewhat out of hand at the end. don't really understand why so many of the characters keep blowing or shooting each other up. and a main and to me interesting plot point - return of book of kells - gets lost in the thorny thicket of intrigue. also, some of the accretion of character details from this series, eg the polygamous marriage (gill readers will know), seem forced and unreal. this was gill's last book before his death in 2002. would guess he was getting tired of mcgarr et al in any case,Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.