Select one of the keywords
Irish Alibi    by Ralph McInerny order for
Irish Alibi
by Ralph McInerny
Order:  USA  Can
Minotaur, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Ralph McInerny, author of Irish Alibi, is the author of over forty books, including the popular Father Dowling mystery series; with respect to McInerny's impressive body of work, I defer to previous reviewers who have been frequently effusive in their praise. Now having just finished Irish Alibi, my introduction to McInerny's work, I must instead focus exclusively on this mystery's notable strengths and its minor flaws.

When Magnus O'Toole (newly published author and veteran sportswriter from Atlanta) and Quintin Kelly (fellow Notre Dame from the class of '77) converge, as if by accident, at South Bend, Indiana, on the weekend of the big Notre Dame versus Georgia Tech football game, plenty of problems are on the horizon for both of these two unsuspecting Fighting Irish alumni. As luck (of the Irish?) would have it, O'Toole's wife - in whom Kelly has more than a passing acquaintance and interest - is also in town and staying at the ironically named Tranquil Motel.

In the meantime, Notre Dame student Sarah Kincade's two brothers (in whom the spirit of the Confederacy is alive and well) are visiting from Memphis, and soon they are intent upon perpetrating a great prank (or is it an incident of mean-spirited vandalism and post-Civil War retaliation): the statue of Reverend William Corby (a hero of the Civil War) is toppled from its perch, and much of the Notre Dame community is suddenly up in arms (i.e., the Yankees and Confederates are once again at each others' throats - at least figuratively).

Then the problems in South Bend seriously escalate: O'Toole's wife whose scandalous behavior has raised the eyebrows of one or more interested parties has been found dead in - you guessed it - the Tranquil Motel. And - you guessed it again - O'Toole becomes at first the prime person of interest, and then he becomes the arraigned suspect.

However, don't jump to conclusions based on the obvious evidence in Irish Alibi because quicker than you can say Knute Rockne, the number of suspects in the woman's death begins to multiply, and (in the less serious case) the so-called suspect(s) in the toppling of Reverend Corby may be vindicated because of a case of either mistaken identity or intentional duplicity or something else altogether. Perhaps - ironically - something like divine wrath is the agent of criminality at the otherwise tranquil campus in the North; on the other hand, the solution for all of the campus's latest ills may take something resembling divine intervention - either in the unlikely Falstaffian form of Roger Knight, Professor of Catholic Studies, or his brother Philip Knight, the occasional private investigator.

As the accomplished author McInerny deftly weaves a complicated and humorous plot in which characters' confusion and errors dominate the action (but in which awkwardly written streams-of-consciousness result in disconcertingly and abruptly disorienting shifts in point of view and time), nothing really is what it seems at good old Notre Dame. This good-natured and swiftly flowing imitation of golden age mysteries will appeal to plenty of readers, especially die-hard McInerny fans; my reading of Irish Alibi, however, leaves me uncertain about whether or not I will be seeking out other works from this obviously talented author. Perhaps, like Irish whiskey (and some Irish cuisine), Irish Alibi requires an acquired taste.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Mystery books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews