The Keening: A Mystery of Gaelic Ireland

Written by Anne Emery
Review by Jinny Webber

The Keening opens in Enniskillen, Ireland, in 1595, then moves to the same place in contemporary times. In both past and present, the property is a hostelry, welcoming guests. The Gaelic mystery referred to on the book cover dominates the plot. A locally beloved healer and seer is murdered, to the shock of the community. Her close friend was Brigid Tierney, who owns the guest house near Enniskillen castle and a Cistercian monastery and whose man, Shane, serves as a musketeer for the Maguire clan. England had established rule in much of Ireland 50 years earlier, pacifying some clans, but not the Maguires of Enniskillen. In the 21st century, Brigid’s descendant Mick Tierney runs the guest house with his grown daughter Róisín, designer of murals depicting the historical Maguires. Threatened by a developer who intends to buy the adjoining property, they turn to archeology to stop his grandiose plans. Did something significant happen here in the 16th century?

The Keening keeps the suspense going with its intriguing protagonists and ongoing puzzles. Who killed Sorcha and why? In 1595, Queen Elizabeth was determined to bring the Irish, with their Roman Catholicism and traditional laws and customs, under English domination. In the time of the incomparable Shakespeare and William Byrd in London, English soldiers and settlers committed brutal acts against the native Irish with the goal of starving them out. Along with history of the Catholic church, Irish princes, and Irish traditions of learning—and such notables as the sea captain Granuaile, or Grace, O’Malley—The Keening is full of music, poetry, and tales, with enlightening epigraphs to each chapter. A rich and rewarding book, it arouses our sympathies for the long, painful history of the Irish within an engrossing mystery. Recommended.