The City of Lies

Written by Michael Russell
Review by Cathy Kemp

Set in Ireland in 1940, the fourth book of the Stefan Gillespie series finds him embroiled in the search for the murderer of a group of four relatives near his home in West Wicklow. The main suspect’s guilt is uncertain, but when he confesses to some knowledge relating to the forensic findings, his date with the hangman’s noose is confirmed.    With many Irish citizens fighting on opposite sides in the conflict of the Second World War, the IRA stir up trouble locally and, along with organised fights between criminal gangs at the races, the Gardaí are challenged with rounding up and detaining those caught. Summary justice is undertaken and capital punishment exacted within the walls of Mountjoy Prison, leading to further unrest. Meanwhile, for the Irish to continue their position of neutrality in the war, Stefan is dispatched by the Special Branch to undertake a trip to Berlin by a circuitous route through occupied territory, under the auspices of a diplomatic mission, though the true purpose is more complicated. On reaching his destination Stefan finds he is engaged by the current Irish chargé d’affaires to assist in investigating the conviction of an Irish citizen accused of murdering a German soldier, liaising with the Kriminalpolizei.

The development of differing threads is woven together neatly by Russell, and the culmination of the story gives a satisfying resolution. On a minor note, I would question the ability of two Irish citizens to converse comprehensively in Gaelic on the political situation, as the teaching of Irish in schools at that time was unlikely to be to that standard, unless the individuals originated from an area where Irish is the first language, a Gaeltacht.