reviewed by Chris Rhatigan
The Irish goddess Macha once agreed to marry a farmer whose first wife had recently died. The farmer took Macha to a horse race and there fell into the trap of bragging that his new wife could run faster than the king’s horses. The king was furious and ordered Macha to race against his thoroughbreds, even though Macha was heavily pregnant. The goddess did so, beat the horses, and gave birth to twins on the finish line. As a punishment for the men who had used her thus, Macha cursed them to suffer labour pains at a time in the future when they most needed to be fit and strong.
The moral is age-old. A wronged woman will seek revenge. There is something of Macha in all women. ‘Hats Off to Mary’ contains men who use women for their own ends, a bunch of racehorses and a lass whose reprisal for being scorned is equal to that of any vengeful goddess.
When you have an anthology of crime fiction based on Irish myths, perhaps the adjective “quirky” could apply to any of the entries.
Nevertheless, I’ll stampede ahead with quirky as the best word to describe Garry Kilworth’s delectable tale, Hats off to Mary.
It begins with car salesman Sean Casey out on a beautiful Saturday enjoying his sole interest—betting on the ponies. Casey’s horse, High Stepper, is in the lead when, seemingly for no reason, his head implodes. Enter Detective Sergeant Frank O’Grady, who at first wonders why he’s been called in at all. He sniffs around a bit before concluding that the case will probably go down in history as one of those weird, unsolved mysteries.
Of course, it doesn’t go down as an unsolved mystery, and O’Grady cracks the case almost in spite of himself. It proves to be a funny, charming story with some witty banter. Kilworth also has an eye—and ear—for detail, making it easy for the reader to be transported into his world.
The only complaint I have is the title. Kilworth devised a clever solution to the crime, but basically gives it away before you even start reading. But this is a minor point, and I thoroughly enjoyed this piece.