by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (Author)
In a sense this novel’s most successful character is the city in which it is set, Dublin in the rare auld times, with all its ‘muck and dust and dung, noise and hustle and throng.’ Into this location the author places her adolescent protagonist, Taney, whose narrative voice is that of one who likes to confide. Her talent for second sight, she tells us, is both a ‘gift’ and a ’curse’; it enables her to avert disaster and helps her friend, Billy-no-legs, to gamble profitably, but it also takes her down a dark walkway to a place of robberies, assaults and murder. While she blocks out the killer’s identity, she instinctively feels that it is someone she knows.
Taney’s inherited her supernatural talents from her mother, talents that are somehow implicated in her death. Consequently, Taney’s father fears for her, and this, in conjunction with her relationship with the disabled Billy, leads to their growing estrangement. It is only when the murderer is uncovered that Taney can accept her power, her burgeoning womanhood and her family.
While the novel has a strong narrative thrust and characterisations are largely successful, the most striking quality of Fitzpatrick’s writing – and her picture books – is the visual impact of the world she is depicting. This is epitomised in a wonderfully choreographed set piece at a horse fair where a multitude of men and beasts criss-cross a square in a mesmeric dance designed to thwart the Industrial School officials from capturing Billy. It has all the verve and life of a Brueghel painting.
This review was published online in