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Published by Faber & Faber, 6 March
2014. ISBN: 978-0-571-27860-2
In 1961 Harry Ferguson comes to the Holywell
mental institution in Northern Ireland
where Doris Curran, ex-wife of Lance Curran, formerly Northern Ireland
Attorney-General and then a Northern
Ireland judge, is now resident. Doris was committed to Holywell in 1953 a few days after
the murder of her and Lance's teenage daughter Patricia. A man called Ian Hay
Gordon was convicted of Patricia's murder and only escaped the death penalty by
reason of insanity; he also was committed to Holywell. Doris is now unable to
talk coherently about her daughter's death or indeed about anything else much;
always unstable, perhaps as a result of having been brought up in Broadmoor
where her father had been superintendent, her personality is now merging with
that of Thomas Cutbush, a suspect in the notorious Ripper killings in the late
19th century London's East End who had been confined to Broadmoor.
However, the book mainly concentrates on an earlier trial in 1949 of the young
Protestant workman Robert Taylor for the murder of the elderly devout Catholic
widow Mary McGowan. The evidence against Taylor
is overwhelming, and there is no doubt of his guilt. Curran, as Attorney-General,
is determined to conduct the prosecution himself with scrupulous fairness. But Ferguson, as Curran's long-term political fixer, is
equally determined to see that Taylor is
acquitted; the result of a Protestant being convicted of a capital crime for the
murder of a Catholic in a city as polarised as Belfast would be cataclysmic. However, Curran
will not choose the path of easy expediency so Ferguson
must find other means to ensure Taylor's
acquittal, and if there should be a retrial to ensure that that also results in
a conclusion that he, and the powerful, threatening yet shadowy interests
behind him, desire.
thought this book was outstanding. McNamee writes beautifully. The narrative is
multi-stranded and weaves backwards and forwards in time, yet at all times is
so controlled that there is no doubt as to who is involved and when. The
characters are convincing and the bigoted atmosphere of Belfast admirably conveyed. McNamee has
written two other books based on the real-life Taylor/McGowan case, Blue Tango and Orchid Blue; if they measure up to Blue is the Night the whole trilogy is remarkable.
Reviewer: Radmila May
Eoin McNamee's novels include Resurrection Man, later made
into a film, The Blue Tango, which was longlisted for the Booker Prize,
and Orchid Blue, described by John Burnside in the Guardian as
'not only into a political novel of the highest order but also that rare
phenomenon, a genuinely tragic work of art.'. He lives in Sligo.