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The Death of an Irish Tinker

A body has been found shackled to the upper branches of one of the tallest trees in Ireland. The victim is a "Tinker, " one of the mysterious and secretive class of itinerant travelers who have roamed the country for generations. The intent of the murder is obvious - to shock, to punish, to warn. But who is doing the punishing, and who is being warned? These are the questions facing Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr, head of Ireland's Murder Squad, as he starts his investigation. He soon learns that the victim was connected to the country's most ruthless drug lord: Des Bacon, known on the streets as "the Toddler." The key to finally ending the Toddler's reign of terror lies with a young Tinker woman named Biddy Nevins. Only she can solve the mystery of the body in the tree, but she has fled for her life, disappearing into the secret Tinker world of back alleys and traveling caravans. McGarr must use all the wits and resources at his command to find Biddy Nevins before the Toddler can get to her. And all the while the Tinkers lie in wait, planning their revenge.
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In a powerful novel of revenge, Gill's focus shifts away from the series hero, Dublin copper Peter McGarr, and his dogged Garda officers (last seen in Death of an Irish Sea Wolf, 1996). Instead, the narrative centers on the hunted: a tinker woman named Biddy Nevins, gifted street artist, a mother and a former heroin addict. Biddy witnesses a man being thrown under a Dublin bus by two goons in police uniforms who then go after her. She lives on the run for years, changing her name and making money in the art world, but not before her man, also a "traveler" and musician, is murdered in a particularly grisly manner as a reminder of her enemy's long reach. Biddy's foe is the hunter: Desmond Bacon, alias "the Toddler," Dublin's biggest drug dealer. He was trained to kill in Vietnam, has an army of addicts working for him and informative friends in high places. McGarr, drawn in by the murder of Biddy's man, doesn't so much detect here as officiate while Biddy goes after her nemesis. Gill lines up new lovers for Biddy, a business manager and her now teenage daughter, all of whom serve as targets for the Toddler. The tinkers' world is explored with respect and sympathy; the two main characters are multidimensional, expertly rendered creations; even the very long time frame doesn't dull the suspense, although the bloodbath at the ending may leave some issues only murkily resolved. Readers may be surprised to find Peter McGarr so little involved in the action, but there will be no complaints. This is a riveting, page-turning tale. (Sept.)

"Gill highlights the rugged vibrancy and anachronisms of Ireland and its citizens without ever succumbing to cliched Emerald Islesentimentality." -- "Publishers Weekly""A police procedural that defies the limits of the genre...He writes with literary grace." -- "The Washington Post Book World"

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