Mysterious Book Report No. 56

My name is John Dwaine McKenna, and I approved this message.

“It’s a pleasure to burn.”  Those are the opening words of the iconic novel, Fahrenheit 451.  The man who wrote them, Ray Bradbury, died yesterday in California at the age of 91 . . . he was a giant in the science-fiction field, and one of the first writers to transcend genre into literature.  He was a supporter of libraries and an arch enemy of censorship of any kind, and he will be sorely missed by his millions of fans around the world.  R.I.P. Mr. Bradbury, secure in the knowledge that your supporters everywhere will continue your fight against mind-control and censorship in all of its many guises, because literature will forever challenge totalitarianism and unfree societies wherever they might be found . . . including the internet.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Mysterious Book Report . . .

In the kind of future society envisioned by Mr. Bradbury and others like as Aldous Huxley, such a thing as the takeover for political purposes of a newspaper article could happen.  I’m just sayin’ . . . some food for thought, the next time an ordinance is proposed that defies both common sense and freedom, such as the Little Mayor’s proposed ban on super-sized drinks.  I mean really? Com’ on, man.

This week’s MBR number 56 concerns people impacted by their chosen governments in a different way.  The novel is titled Borderlands, (Thomas Dunne Books, 2008, $23.95, 227 pages, ISBN 978-0-312-38406-7).  It’s the debut novel of Brian McGilloway who teaches in Derry, Northern Ireland and lives in a small town in the Borderlands—the line along which the Republic of Ireland (Derry) meets the boundaries of Northern Ireland (Londonderry) an infamous location during “The Troubles” of the 1970’s and 80’s.

The mystery begins with the discovery of the nearly-nude body of a 16 year-old girl who turns out to be the daughter of a local gangster in the Borderlands.  Both the Irish Republics An Garda Siochana, (the Garda) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland are called out, and offer whatever assistance and aid to each other that they can.  The lead detective in the case is determined by nationality of the victim, which in this case, falls to Inspector Ben Devlin of the Garda.  His only clues in the case are an expensive pearl ring and an old photograph left at the murder scene.  As Devlin searches for the murderer, his job becomes progressively more difficult as friction at home, political meddling, criminal involvement by the father of the young murder victim and bands of roving Travellers all interfere.  Then, when a second young person is murdered, Devlin ties the two cases together with the 25 year-old disappearance of a prostitute and suspects that one of his colleagues may be complicit . . . the case explodes with a labyrinth of possibilities, dead ends and surprising conclusions.  This novel firmly establishes McGilloway in the pantheon of Irish crime fiction writers, alongside the likes of Bruen, Rankin, Neville, and McKinty.  As a number of other reviewers have remarked, I find it hard to believe that this is a debut novel, but it is . . . and it’s so polished, complex and well delivered . . . I rate Borderlands by Brian McGilloway as not to be missed by mystery lovers everywhere.  I, for one, will be busy this year catching up on all the rest of the Inspector Devlin mysteries.  He’s that darn good!

Ray Bradbury, too poor to afford a college education, self-educated himself by going to the library and reading.  He believed that public libraries were the very cornerstones of civilization.  I can think of no nobler reason for all of us to be regular patrons and supporters.

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That’s it for this week.  We’ll see you next week with a brand new MBR.