Friday, 1 November 2013

The new policeman - Kate Thompson

Yet another one of those books that have been waiting on the shelf for years and that I enjoyed more than I expected I would. I wasn’t even sure what it was about, just that once someone told me it was good. And yet, the right time for it only came now. I devoured this in less than two days. It was that good. It’s also about everything I love. Ireland, for starters. It’s set in a delightful little village I’ve visited more than once, in county Galway. It’s about traditional Irish music, and even though I’m not the biggest fan of trad, or diddly aye as my friends from the wesht call it, I do enjoy a session every now and then. It really shows the true heart of Ireland. And finally, it’s about magic, folklore and mythology. About the Tuatha de Danann and the great Irish heroes of the old sagas.Only, not like you’ve read them before.
Life in Kinvara seems to go as usual, except it isn’t. Time is slipping away too fast and people never seem to have enough of it. There is a new policeman in town, but he’s not so sure he’s right for the job and he’d rather play his fiddle in the pub than investigate crimes. Then there’s 15-year-old JJ Liddy who bears his mother’s family name with pride (The Liddys have been for their music and their ceili for years), until one day his friend tells him his great-grandfather murdered a priest, and he’s not sure about being a Liddy anymore. He doesn’t know anything about his family’s past and now his mother realises it’s time to tell him the truth. But soon JJ realises there’s more at stake than his family pride. His determination to buy more time for his mother, as she asked for her birthday present, brings him to the edge of reality in a quest to fix time and fulfil his mother’s wishes.
This was a multi-layered story that was satisfying on many levels. It was filled with humour, with characters instantly easy to love, with an almost tangible love for music and for dancing and for communal traditions carried forward for generations with love and pride. And then there was a not-so-subtle criticism towards the present times, or the present at the time of the novel, when Ireland was at the height of its economic boom, which happened so sudden and so fast that it had earned the name Celtic tiger. No one had time for anything anymore, except making money, buying houses and cars and climbing the career ladder. This was not a huge part of the story but it did linger there, understated, until the ending, when it becomes more obvious.
 But what I loved the most was the new take on the Irish “Gods”. I especially loved Angus and the Dagda, and Bran the dog, and everything that had to do with them. I was slightly concerned about JJ, because unlike him, I did remembered what happened to Oisin in the legends. But still, you don’t need to know too much about old Irish sagas to enjoy this. If anything, it’d make you want to read more about them. But even if this was the only book you’d ever read about them, I think it’d be a good one.
The ending was the cherry on the cake. You find out who the new policeman really is and even though I had an inkling, I hadn’t guessed the full story, and it’s brilliant!

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