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The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill*

The Death of a Joyce Scholar by Bartholomew Gill*

January 14, 2021
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Having been briefly an avid Joyce Scholar, I looked forward to reading this book in anticipation of some smart literary tricks and references worthy of Joyce.  Having heard the author’s stellar reputation for engaging “Irish Mysteries” featuring Dublin’s Chief Superintendent Peter McGarr, I was doubly enticed.

I enjoy a good mystery and, despite my disdain for the really spade-nosed Joycean, I relish the cracking of a wise pun or a slightly off-center literary or linguistic allusion.

When Trinity College’s foremost Joyce expert and portrayer, Kevin Coyle, is murdered on Bloomsday (the date of Joyce’s Ulysses), McGarrity introduces us to half-baked, bland Dubliners in a city known for quirky characters and colorful eccentrics (of which Joyce is the favorite).  The victim, for whom we should like to feel sad, proved to be as interesting and sympathetic as street litter. 

After some rambling about sexual deviancies and ineffective inept attempts to link the murder to Joycean prose, I was ready to stop reading.  I forged ahead simply to see if there was anything of redeeming quality in the solving.  There was not.  It was a “wrap” unworthy of Detective Chief Charlie Chan, let alone Maigret, Poirot, or Roger Rabbit. 

What could have been a nuanced, insightful mystery of character and a display of true Irish Irreverence, Guinness, and Blarney turned out to be merely a pedestrian yarn of no distinction.  Who cares?  Save your shillings and buy elsewhere.

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*Pen name for American author, Mark McGarrity (1943 – 2002)