Though the Heavens Fall

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 01 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

Must admit to having been at sea for much of this, probably because the characters were new to me.  Belfast in 1995 was not a pretty place and Emery has done her best to capture the darkness that surrounded it.  Thanks to net galley for the ARC.  There's a good story here for those who are familiar with Collins and Burke.
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Though the Heavens Fall by Anne Emery
By Jack | October 1, 2018 | Book Review

An Irish thriller. The title comes from the inscription on the Four Courts building in Dublin, “Let justice be done though the heavens fall.” This is a wonderful book on many levels and I completely enjoyed it. It is billed as a thriller and it is. But is it much more.

“Though the Heavens Fall” by Anne Emery is the 10th and latest in the Collins-Burke Mystery Series. It was a new series for me so I can say for certain that you do not need to read this series in order. I started with number 10 and did not feel lost in the least.

This rich novel is a wonderful story that takes place during the peace process in North Ireland. The story centers on a Northern Irish family involved in both the peace process and IRA campaign. Father Burke is visiting this family from his home in Canada. He is a first cousin to the head of the Irish family.

The Father’s friends, Monty Collins and his wife Maura MacNeil are both lawyers from Canada doing short-term assignments in Ireland and so we get several outsiders’ view of what passes for justice in 1995 Northern Ireland.

The book is not coming out until mid-October. I thank Netgalley for the privilege of reading this before the publication date.

I highly recommend the book, especially if you have an interest in Ireland. For my next book I may read number 9 in this series which takes place in Cape Breton. Try this series; I think you’ll like it.
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This is the 10th book in a series involving Monty Collins, a lawyer, and Brennan Burke, a priest.  Though I had not read any other books in the series, I did not have any problem following the story.

It begins in January, 1995.  Though the protagonists generally reside in Halifax, Canada, Monty is on temporary assignment at a Belfast law firm for one of his biggest clients in Halifax.  He expected to be finished and back in Halifax by May.  But five months is a long time, so he brought his wife and children with him as well as Brennan, who decided to take the opportunity to visit his extended family in Ireland.  (Brennan is “practically a part of the Collins-MacNeil family now” since they all met in Halifax five years before.)

Although there is a cease-fire between the Catholics and Protestants battling in Northern Ireland, Monty decides to situate his wife and kids in Dublin and just see them on weekends, because Belfast is not safe.  

Brennan is staying in Belfast with his cousin Ronan, who is a major player in trying to effect a peace agreement.  But the process is far more complicated than Brennan realizes.

Meanwhile, Monty is asked for legal help by a local girl, 16-year-old Katie Flanagan, whose family is about to be evicted.  In 1992, her father Eamon fell off a bridge and died.  It was on the same night and in the same place that an IRA operative was assassinated.  The police said Eamon must have fallen, but the family is convinced he was pushed somehow.  Katie shows Monty the autopsy report which supports the theory that Eamon was hit by a car and thrown off the bridge by the impact.  If Monty can prove this, he can get insurance money from the driver of the car for the family.  But Monty, like Brennan, is unaware of the broader picture, and his inquiries stir up far more trouble than he could know.

Before long, all are suffering the consequences of the good-hearted but uninformed meddling of Brennan and Monty.

Discussion:  I liked the story, although the author didn’t make it easy for me.  There is a lot of historical background provided in the text about the conflict between the Irish and the Protestants in Northern Ireland.  But I thought the author employed a clumsy narrative technique to do so; it was much too didactic.  Whenever the characters go anywhere, we get a history of the place:  “The graveyard is one of the most potent symbols of nationalism in the country…”  “‘We’ve seen worse on this holy ground,’ Ronan said.  ‘I was here in ’88.’” Cue in history of what happened in 1988.  Someone mentions Bloody Sunday.  Cue in history of Bloody Sunday.  Brennan had a friend who died in the bombing in 1974.  Cue in the history, etc.

Some attempts at education seem particularly ham-handed:  Brennan:  “As you may be aware, Monty, the Dáil is the Irish parliament.” [It is pretty unlikely he wouldn’t know.]

And often it seemed like irrelevant minutiae clogged up the story in an attempt to serve as a travel & customs guide to Ireland, viz:  “He poured a Smithwick’s for Maura and a Guinness for himself.”  

Evaluation:  I warmed up to the story as it progressed, and the character dynamics among Monty, Maura, and Brennan are quite interesting, but I’m not sure if I would want to continue with the series.
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