by Sandra Murphy
Perfect for St. Patrick’s Day, we have a review this week of Murder in an Irish Pub by Carlene O’Connor, along with a fun interview with Carlene aka Mary Carter where she shares some of her favorite things about St. Patrick’s Day. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Murder in an Irish Pub. There is also a link to purchase it Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
Murder in an Irish Pub: An Irish Village Mystery by Carlene O’Connor
Review by Sandra Murphy
Siobhan O’Sullivan lives in Kilbane, a small town in County Cork, Ireland. Her family runs Naomi’s Bistro while she patrols as the newest member of the Garda (police). Her boss, friend, and lover is Macdara. They have their hands full when the International Poker Tournament is held in a local pub at the same time as the Arts and Music Festival happens on the main street.
There are three main contenders. Eamon is ranked the top player, Clementine and Shane, two and three. The last hand of day one proves to be a contentious one. Eamon is accused of cheating, he draws the Dead Man’s Hand of black aces and eights with a joker, and a near riot starts when the overseer of the game announces he’ll check the video and decide if Eamon will be disqualified. Betting, legal and not, is running rampant so much rides on the decision.
The tournament location is changed to a rougher pub. When Siobhan arrives the next morning to be on hand for the decision, she gets more than she wagered in the form of Eamon’s body. On the face of it, suicide seems obvious but questions arise. A note is found; his wallet, phone, and signature sunglasses are missing. Siobhan is sure it’s murder, Macdara uncertain.
As far as suspects go, there are a number. Anyone who bet on Eamon now stands to lose. His pregnant wife isn’t grief-stricken. Clementine and Shane have now improved their positions in the standings. Will the tournament go on or be delayed?
This is the fourth book in the series. Search the archives for reviews on the first three. Siobhan is the oldest girl and feels responsible for her brothers and sisters after their parents died. She’s driven to do well as a Garda, conflicted about seeing Macdara against regulations, tries to exercise regularly, and bakes the brown bread for the bistro each morning. It hardly gives her time to pet the dog or get her hair cut. Now that she’s police, former friends treat her differently, keeping her at a distance. She’s got a sharp mind and isn’t afraid to assert herself when she spots an inconsistency in a crime scene.
The town of Kilbane is as much a character as any of its townspeople. From the ruined abbey to the shops to the smells floating in the air, readers will be transported, if just for a while, to County Cork. Enjoy the trip, eat brown bread, have a pint or two—just don’t bet on card games.
Interview with Carlene O’Connor:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Carlene: My first short story was called “The Boy and the Mouse.” I was four years old. I drew the cover, stapled it, and everything. I’ve pretty much been writing since then. I wrote short stories, poems, essays, and plays, and even a screenplay before starting my first novel in 2004.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Carlene: My first novel came out in 2006. It was called She’ll Take It. It’s about a kleptomaniac who falls in love with a lawyer who prosecutes shoplifters. My agent called it dark, demented, and absolutely hilarious. That pretty much sums it up.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Carlene: I started out writing books that were labeled Chick Lit and later labeled Women’s Fiction. Romance novellas as well. I always preferred the term Contemporary or Mainstream Fiction as I personally don’t like the labels often imposed on female writers. I have 10 novels and six novellas that are not mysteries under Mary Carter. I also have one novel that was never published. It was my first attempt at a thriller. I would like to try that again. I’ve written plays, screenplays, and short stories before I attempted novels. My one-act play, Kissing Frogs, had a staged reading at Geva Theatre in upstate New York many, many years ago.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Carlene: My editor called me and asked if I’d like to write a murder mystery series set in England. I told him I didn’t know enough about England to set a mystery there, then added, “But I could set it in Ireland.” At the time I had been to Ireland, and had set one of my Mary Carter books there (The Pub Across the Pond). He loved the idea and that was the beginning of The Irish Village Mystery Series. Like the three before it, Murder in an Irish Pub is set in Kilbane, County Cork, a fictional village roughly based on Kilmallock, County Limerick, a medieval walled town that I fell in love with. The protagonist is Siobhan O’Sullivan, a feisty redhead who has recently become an official Irish Guard.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Carlene: I recently listened to David Mamet’s Master Class on Storytelling, and he stated that all stories should entertain. I believe that is one of our main jobs. Elmore Leonard seconds it by saying, “Stories are life with the boring parts taken out.” Although a writer may wish readers would take away something deep or important, it’s not something I can or should focus on as a writer. I need to focus on the truth of my characters and their world. If I do a good job then readers may or may not glean more than just entertainment. I’d love for readers to fall in love with the Irish culture and people the way I did, as well as a feeling that a sense of justice has been brought to an unwarranted death—murder—which is the underpinning of all murder mysteries. One of my friends now wants to visit Kilmallock based on my books. That’s very satisfying.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or do you just write whenever you can?
Carlene: I wrote my first 10 novels and six novellas fitting them in whenever I could. I had a full-time job as a sign language interpreter, and because I did it freelance my hours were never consistent. So I learned to write in between interpreting jobs. Now, I teach a writing workshop in the evening, so I mainly write during the weekdays, like a regular job. I procrastinate, I must admit, but I never miss my deadlines.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Carlene: I am required by my editor to outline. It’s not always my happy place, but they do come in handy, especially with murder mysteries. Often I make new discoveries while writing that veer from the outline, and as long as it makes the story better my editor has no problem with deviations.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Carlene: After 12 years I’ve worked up to my ideal, which is whenever I want. Because I teach at night I write during the day.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Carlene: I must admit I’m an exception to the struggling writer rule. I got an agent two weeks after sending out query letters, and he sold it to my current publisher four months later. However, I worked on that first novel for two years and did not start submitting until I had done everything I could with it.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Carlene: Yikes. I have so many and they stress me out. Under contract I will continue to write The Irish Village Mystery Series, and it’s possible I will also continue writing a series called the Home to Ireland series. The first book in that series, Murder in Galway, will be an exclusive for one year with Barnes and Noble, coming out in May of 2019. After one year it will go through the regular life of a book and go to all the other outlets. If it does well, I may continue to write that series in addition to my first series. On a personal level I want to write a psychological thriller, a stage play, and a screenplay.
KRL: What do you like to read?
Carlene: I’m an eclectic reader, always have been. As far as mysteries go, as a kid I read Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Boxcar Children. As an adult I read everything from Sue Grafton to John Grisham to Tana French. Of course no mystery writer ignores Agatha Christie. But I read across all genres: Literary fiction, mainstream, psychological thrillers. I love everyone from John Irving to Lisa Jewell. I’ve never been good at having a single favorite of everything, so I’m grateful there is variety out there. In the same week I might read Ready Player One, and then Little Fires Everywhere. Reading is addictive (luckily). [I’m] currently reading Watching You by Lisa Jewell.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Carlene: I read books on subjects I may need to know more about; I watch You Tube videos; I talk to people who are experts or natives. I listen and take notes. I try to write the first draft without worrying too much so that I can get the story down, then fill in truths with research.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Carlene: So many great television series these days. I admit to being a Netflix binge-watcher. I love a lot of the British series. Even Riverdale is fun because I used to read the Archie comics. Shameless, The Walking Dead, Homeland—too many I must admit.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Carlene: I teach a writing workshop that helped me first get published. It’s fun to give back. Anyone who wants to write can do it. They just have to keep at it, learn the craft, and be determined. I have an addiction to moving. I love looking at real estate on Zillow and imagining myself living in different types of homes. Before writing I was an actress. I guess the common thread is a desire to live a multitude of lives and experiences. Luckily, I can do that through stories whether it’s writing, or reading, or watching, or daydreaming.
KRL: St Patrick’s Day is almost upon us and your books are set in Ireland; do you have any St. Patrick’s Day traditions?
Carlene: When I lived in New York City I often went out on Saint Patrick’s Day, although those days are a bit behind me. Now, like a lot of others, I might grumble about amateur night and stay in. But I still love that it’s a day when everyone wants to be Irish.
KRL: What is your favorite food or drink for St. Patrick’s Day?
Carlene: If I was in Ireland there’s no doubt it would be bacon and cabbage, but that’s very different than the American version of corned beef and cabbage. I’ve purchased a few Irish cookbooks. I might have to experiment this year.
KRL: Any fun St. Patrick’s Day stories to tell?
Carlene: I had the pleasure of writing an article for the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade blog in New York City. We’re Irish (At Least Today) by Mary Carter.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Carlene: I have moved a lot in my life. The longest I’ve ever lived in one place or apartment is eight years. I once lived in a houseboat in Seattle down the dock from the one in the film Sleepless in Seattle.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Murder in an Irish Pub, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “irish pub,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 16, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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