DATE READ: March 2011
NOTES: This is a novel based on real life incidents. In 1961 and young girl was savagely murdered in Newry following a dance at the Orange Hall. A local man, Robert McGladdery, is accused but the Detective in charge is concerned that because feelings are running so high he might not get a fair trial. Things are further complicated by the appointment of Lord Justice Curran as the trial judge. Nine years previously his own daughter had been murdered and the accused in that case was deemed of unsound mind and sent to a mental institution. The death sentence still exists and there seems to be a general feeling that the ultimate penalty should be paid for such a dreadful crime.
Eoin McNamee is a very good writer. He creates the atmosphere of the sixties brilliantly and all the characterisations are excellent. McGladdery is shown to be an enigmatic character who is not helped by the sloppy police tactics of the time. There are also the many ambiguities regarding the murder of the Judge’s daughter. Parts of the story do not add up but it is as if he was too important a person to be vigorously questioned.
If this was a complete fiction it would be a brilliant book. But as it is based on real people and real incidents I felt very uncomfortable reading it. 1961 is not so long ago – some of the people involved could still be alive. He also writes in a detailed way as to what people said and what they were thinking. I found myself thinking “How does he know this”.
I didn’t know about this case before reading Orchid Blue so would not have known how McGladdery’s trial ended. However on the inside cover is a spoiler….. black marks to the publisher!