Many years ago in another lifetime—the 80’s, I believe it was called—I lived in Florida with my then-husband, the author Omar S. Castaneda. Omar’s best friend at the time was a talented poet by the name of Jonathan Harrington. Jon wrote fine, deceptively delicate verse—underneath his simple, straightforward language were currents that could pull you under so deep you thought you’d never break surface again.
I liked Jon but I thought of him as a rather sad man, and often found myself growing quiet and stony around him. Now I think that may have been in part because I was looking through sad eyes. I also thought he had a rather strange view of the world. For example, he once argued that we should simply erase all our laws because they were patched together from thousands of years of tradition and history, and start afresh with much simpler, straightforward ones.
Eventually, Omar and I left Florida for New York, then the West Coast, and we lost track of Jon and his beautiful wife, singer Wren Griffin. But I remembered both of them vividly and often wondered about them.
Jon was a very literary writer. He didn’t read genre fiction, let alone write it, and I couldn’t imagine him penning a crime novel. So when I found two mystery novels with his name on them at Half Price Books in St. Paul, I assumed it was a different Jonathan Harrington. I was wrong. Had Jon sold out? Hardly. Instead, he’d brought his pitch-perfect command of language and his poet’s skill at imagery to The Death of Cousin Rose and The Second Sorrowful Mystery (both by Worldwide Library).
Danny O’Flaherty, like his creator, is an Irish American who has come to the Emerald Isle to explore his roots. In The Death of Cousin Rose—as in the typical English cozy—chaos and terror intrude into this pleasant setting when Danny’s cousin is murdered and Danny is the chief suspect. But Cousin Rose goes much deeper than most English cozies. Racing to solve the mystery of his cousin’s death, Danny is confronted with the deceit and cruelty that underly the seemingly charming village of his ancestors, and he is forced to re-examine his relationships with his family and his closest friends. In the process, he grows, changes, and deepens. In The Second Sorrowful Mystery, Danny faces a second murder, that of the village priest, the beloved Father O’Malley, and Harrington once again creates a complex and surprising tale that deftly weaves together charm and shock.
Rural Ireland is a perfect backdrop to the Danny O’Flaherty mysteries. The loveliness of the setting, the enigmatic rituals and symbols of Roman Catholicism, and the grimness of the Irish past are all here, part of the mystery. These novels are not just for fans of the crime-fiction genre: They are for readers who want to roam intriguing landscapes with characters they believe in.
Harrington published three more mysteries after The Death of Cousin Rose and The Second Sorrowful Mystery. He is currently living in a reputedly haunted hacienda in Merida, Mexico, focusing on poetry and translation. Click here to read a fascinating interview in which he explores the writing life and his own interesting history.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...