ARC Review: “Murder at an Irish Christmas,” by Carlene O’Connor

Ho ho ho, merry… September? While I am unsure of the timing in publishing Carlene O’Connor’s sixth Irish Village Mystery book, Murder at an Irish Christmas (due to be published this October), I don’t mind at all because I love this series so much! Thank you, Netgalley and Kensington Books for this awesome opportunity!


From the Publisher:

Garda Siobhán O’Sullivan’s holiday plans hit a sour note when murder rearranges the Yuletide carols into unexpected eulogies…

This December in Kilbane, if you’re planning to warm up with a cuppa tea at Naomi’s Bistro, you may have a bit of a wait–the entire O’Sullivan brood has gone off to West Cork to spend the holidays with brother James’ fiancée Elise’s family, including her grandfather, the famous orchestral conductor Enda Elliot. Siobhán is so happy for James and Elise but also quietly disappointed that she must put her own wedding to fellow garda Macdara Flannery on hold. Mac will have to join them later, so he can spend part of the holidays with his mam.

When the O’Sullivans learn everyone will choose a name from a hat to buy a music-related Christmas gift for someone else at the gathering, it seems like their greatest concern–until the cantankerous conductor is discovered crushed under a ninety-pound harp in a local concert hall.

With the extended family–including Enda’s much-younger new wife Leah, a virtuoso violinist–suspected in his murder, it’s up to Siobhán to ensure the guilty party faces the music. But as a snowstorm strands both families in a lavish farmhouse on a cliff, Siobhán had better pick up the tempo–before the killer orchestrates another untimely demise…


What I Loved:

  • The Murder Mystery. I have a tremendous amount of love for Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series, particularly the installations that feature country house mysteries. Here, while Irish Christmas did not take place literally in the country house, it had the same closed circle, dead patriarch setup. This is a favorite of mine because it dives deep into each family members’ psyche, motives, and desires, and exposes all sorts of secrets both related and unrelated to the murder. O’Connor set this book up much the same way, where each family member of the paternalistic and domineering patriarch has a motive and a web of lies. Siobhán is just the woman to sort through everything as both an outsider and professional policewoman. I love it when she makes people squirm.
  • The Setting. Ah, Ireland. While most of the Irish Village Mystery books take place in Siobhán’s village of Kilbane (central Co. Clare), this installation took place in West Cork on the seaside. Here, there is beautifully rugged beaches and high winds, snow on Christmas, and peat fires. I love scenes of decorating the Christmas tree with seashells and driftwood, and cliffside drama. Poor Kilbane didn’t stand a chance. Even Siobhán wants to move after her vacation.
  • The O’Sullivan Six. While in prior books, Siobhán and her pack of siblings have been a bit annoying, in this book, the family is endearing. It is Christmas time and they are in unfamiliar territory with a group of people that look down on them slightly, and the O’Sullivan clan come out swinging. It makes the reader want a lot of siblings to celebrate and mourn with at the holidays; people who will have your back no matter what.

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • Elise and James. James is Siobhan’s older brother, the only sibling older than her, and he is a bit of a sod. His fiancée Elise is the one whose grandfather is killed, and she acts defiant and hardheaded throughout the entire investigation. Elise tries to make James lie for her as an alibi and expects him to break his own family traditions (such as buying presents among just the siblings) to only follow her own family’s. Siobhán doesn’t get their relationship, and frankly neither do I. James can do better, and while he does stand up to Elise once or twice, it is at the expense of his happiness.
  • Some Loose Plot Points. This may be an ARC problem, so I am not too concerned, but there were one or two points that kind of dissipated as unimportant but remained unsolved. Why did Enda buy the beautiful harp that contributed to his demise? Was he actually going senile, or was he just tying up loose ends? There are others that I cannot reveal due to spoilers, but needless to say, there are questions at the end of Irish Christmas that I wish were solved.

Conclusion:

Except for some minor character issues and unresolved subplots, I really loved this edition of the Irish Village Mystery series. O’Connor writes a well-thought out mystery with a likeable sleuth that expertly toes the line between cozy and true murder mystery. Also, how can you beat books set in Ireland? You can’t, simply put. Four waves out of five! This wonderful book comes out October 27, but preorder here or here to read a Christmas cozy on All Hallow’s Eve. If you haven’t read the rest of the books in the series, check out first book Murder in an Irish Village, now available as a Kindle e-book for $0.99 (thank you @bookswithcassie)!

4 thoughts on “ARC Review: “Murder at an Irish Christmas,” by Carlene O’Connor

    1. I am so happy! Thank you for the heads up, definitely going to add a link to this post for the first book. I will say they get better every book, so if you find yourself frustrated with book 1, it does get better. Hope you enjoy 🙂

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