SEEKING THE STONES
J. J. Lafferty
Lafferty’s mellifluous Scottish accent brings the words of his own poetry to life on this unusual album, with accompanying background music by Ken Brown. Lafferty’s verse deals with evocative, earth-wind-and-sky topics, and are genuinely lyrical, and sometimes a political tone creeps in.
“Old man, why are you weeping? Is it because the fields of Cambodia smell blood, or that with fiery tar Ireland brands those who fraternize?” More often, nature and the seasons conjure the prevailing mood of the ebb and flow of puny human life across great racks of rocky Celtic land. In “Exile” Lafferty recalls his arrival as am immigrant in Toronto, “at home, warm in the ice of Canada.” Flaith, www.jjlafferty.ca, $15.
THE CROOKED MAN
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Dublin-born Davison has created a character in the grand tradition of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and Colombo. There is a difference, though: Harry Fielding works for MI5 as a sort of freelance intelligencer and spy. His unsavory trade draws him into the heart of a dark mystery that he is very eager to avoid, but after witnessing two murders, he decides to act in the seemingly overwhelmingly corrupt world which he inhabits. One murder, he watches impassively; the other, something spurs him to act. Davison has created a powerfully convincing and complex moral tale. Penguin. 224 pp. $13.
ON THE BLANKET
Tim Pat Coogan
Back in print with a new forward, Coogan’s classic account of the blanket protests requires a strong stomach, as it details the excrement protests that ultimately led to the Republican hunger strike deaths in 1981. Coogan in his introduction said that he recoiled from doing the work needed for such a book for some time, unwilling to be confronted by the dreaded H-Block cells and their inmates. In the end, this account came out with considerable sensitivity and stands as a much-needed record of the controversial protests. The author does a decent job of placing the dirty protest in the context of Northern Ireland’s wider social and political malaise. St Martin’s Press. 304 pp. $19.95.
Father Dowling is back. In this new mystery, the surpliced sleuth who runs St. Hilary’s parish is taken aback when a man is found dead with an axe in his back on the grounds of a dying religious order called the Athanasians. Meanwhile, a long-running real-estate dispute among the Athanasians seems unconnected at first, but the threads of the mystery slowly come together. At its heart, Father Roger Dowling is the man who gradually uncovers the truth in this sinister tale, never wavering, yet saintly in his understanding of human weakness. St Martin’s Minotaur. 384 pp. $24.95.