The City Under Siege (Stefan Gillespie)

Written by Michael Russell
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

The story begins in southern Ireland in 1939 when the body of a young, gay man, James Corcoran, is found by a lake in Kildare, badly mutilated, although the injuries were caused after death. The Irish authorities didn’t seem to bother much with the case, and no one was ever charged with the offence. Corcoran had been training to be a priest at St. Patrick’s College in Dublin but was beginning to have doubts about his vocation. Two years later several similar offences occurred in London and a further two in Malta. When these last two bodies are found, Scotland Yard decides to do something about it and sends Detective Inspector Stefan Gillespie from the Irish Police and Chief Inspector Frank Nugent from Scotland Yard to Malta to sort it all out.

The story is intriguing. It twists and turns, and the job is made more difficult by the two detectives who get involved with the Maltese officials and realise that they are not welcome there. The characters are compelling, and after a fairly slow start, the mystery begins to grip. What is the connection between these dead men? They are all gay at a time when this was illegal on both sides of the Irish Sea, so is that the main reason for their murders? Britain is at war with Germany, Malta is under siege, and the Irish are trying to maintain their neutrality, so does all this have anything to do with it? Is one person responsible, or are there more and it is all just coincidental? This is the sixth book in the Stephan Gillespie series, and I am very tempted to read more.