Sliabh Ban by Arlene Hunt from Requiems for the Departed – review

requiem for the departedreviewed by Naomi Johnson

Was there ever a more misunderstood woman than poor Queen Maeve, Queen of Connacht? All she wanted was a loan of The Brown Bull of Cooley for one measly year so that she could be equal in stature to that of her boastful husband, King Ailell, who owned the renowned White-Horned Bull. Hardly much of a request for a Queen to make, one would think. Then all because some drunken mouthpiece couldn’t hold his liquor, she was refused and humiliated by Daire Mac Fiachniu of Ulster, the brown bull’s owner.

What choice had she but to wage war on Ulster and take what should have been offered freely? It’s the principle of the thing. One man’s bull is another woman’s equal footing in the marital home.

What greater fun is there than to play with the story of a lusty, bawdy proud woman who will not take no for an answer? Part Xena Warrior princess, part Aphrodite, part Brunhilde and absolutely no part Peig Sayers, Queen Maeve was a whirlwind of passions and headstrong capabilities. I was greatly enthralled with her as a child when I read about her escapades first. I loved her chariot of war, her willingness to do battle at the drop of an insult. She is an Irish icon.

Arlene Hunt

In a tale laced with pride and obsession — keystones to some of the finest crime fiction ever written — author Hunt draws on the Irish legend of Queen Maeve to create her modern-day warrior woman, Magda. Magda is obsessed with losing her husband to another woman and with losing her horse to her husband. Her pride is taking a regular beating, and she is not a woman to stand by and allow that to situation to continue. The story darkens as Magda’s self-absorption overtakes her good sense, and a final twist worthy of O. Henry neatly ties up a perfect noir tragedy. Hunt’s writing is tight, clean and slightly understated, allowing the reader to sympathize but never empathize with a character who is making herself crazy. But if, as a reader, you do find yourself empathizing with Magda all the way down the line, may I suggest counseling?

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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